Coe on Semenya: I hope she returns to the track

Caster Semenya (Getty Images)
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)

Cape Town - IAAF President Sebastian Coe has confirmed he has not spoken directly to Caster Semenya after the rule was implemented forcing female athletes to regulate their testosterone levels.

The IAAF, seeking "to ensure fair competition for all women", argued that Athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD athletes) - like Semenya - who are born with the "46 XY" chromosome rather than the XX chromosome most females have, would have an advantage in all events.

The ruling means that Semenya can no longer compete in events between 400m and mile which has ruled her out of defending her 800m title at the IAAF World Championships in Qatar later this month.

In an exclusive interview with CNN World Sport's Amanda Davies, Coe shared his opinion on the ruling and revealed that he would love to see the two-time Olympic champion back on the track.

Amanda Davies: The Semenya case, the case of athletes with DSD, it is not black or white. How tough was it for you to decide the right way forward in your mind?

Sebastian Coe: The importance of trying to keep the sport together, particularly women's sport. That's important to me. You know, our sport, we're not sitting there like many other sports, trying to figure out how to give women profile. Women fill our stadiums, sometimes they fill our stadiums in a way that men don't and that's just the cycle of the sport. Our sport has always been 50/50 so it is really important for us that we do what we possibly can to keep that together. It may be in 30 years, 40 years' time society takes a different view and we, you know, we have other classifications, I don't know. But at this point my responsibility was to protect two classifications and that's what we feel we've done.

Davies: Do you have any regrets about how it was handled? How it panned out?

Coe: No, I think it's been handled as sensitively as it possibly could be.

Davies: Have you spoken directly to Caster Semenya?

Coe: No, I haven't because this is not about an individual athlete, it's not about a particular country, it's not about a continent. I don't see this as a personal issue. I see this as the right decision and those regulations have been tabled for what I believe are the right reasons, and, most importantly, the majority of my council.

Davies: Do you have sympathy for Caster Semenya?

Coe: I have clearly a sympathy for the efforts that we are trying to make, and all the federations that are supporting us are trying to make, to keep the sport together. That is the only objective.

Davies: Doesn't sound like you're... As an athlete, it feels like you should have more empathy and sympathy. Ultimately all she wants to do is do what she has done throughout her career: run.

Coe: Yes, we're doing everything we possibly can to allow her to do that.

Davies: Would you like to see her back on track?

Coe: I hope that she does come back onto the track and I do hope that the athletes with that condition to take the medical direction that allows them to do that.

Davies: How would you describe Caster Semenya, if you could sum her up in one word?

Coe: Look, I'm not going to get into individual athletes here. I've been really clear and it's important that I don't personalise this, I don't individualise this. It is really important that the regulations that we tabled are the regulations that allow us to keep athletes with that condition in our sport at international level.

Davies: Have you learned anything from this experience that you might take forward, or athletics should take forward, or maybe pose as questions, in terms of what athletics might have to address in future?

Coe: Look, no Federation, very few big organisations wanted to take the lead role in the challenges around DSD, and clearly, these inspire societal discussions as well. Transgender is, you know, is going to be a massive issue, not just for athletics but for so many other sports. I want athletics to always be at the forefront of thought leadership. I'm happy that our sport is brave enough to want to challenge these, you know, these issues and take them head on. And that doesn't always leave you in popular positions, but they do tend to be the right positions to be in.

- CNN World Sport

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
With the Springboks losing their last two matches against Australia, how concerned are you?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Very concerned! Something is not right ...
58% - 3147 votes
I'm not worried. Every team has a bad game. The Boks will bounce back.
18% - 943 votes
It's too early to tell. Let's see how they go against the All Blacks.
24% - 1295 votes