Any big event is going to be with its fair share of controversy. That’s just the way things work. The World Championships in Berlin are no different. Today a story has emerged that has the word written all over it. The women’s 800 meter final is tonight and it may or may not go off with this season’s best performer, South Africa’s Caster Semenya in the field. If you’ve been watching closely and happened to have caught the prelim of this event, you may remember she was part of the mix-up that caused the previous World Champion to fall and come in dead last, and herself to come extremely close to taking a bad fall, but somehow managing to save herself and finish the race in 1st.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here just a bit…the fact that I’m referring to Semenya as a “she” is the whole reason for the controversy. It seems there has been testing done (or there will be in the near future) to see whether she’s male or both, and therein is where the problem lies. According to IAAF rules, a competitor must be fully female to compete in women’s events. She seemingly came out of nowhere and burst onto the international scene to be the best in the world and that was the first clue that something was amiss. Add to that her running style and mannerisms and people really begin to scratch their head.
The fact remains that nothing has been confirmed yet but that of course does not stop tongues from wagging. And if it is true, perhaps she didn’t knowingly try to gain an unfair advantage and figured she wants to live her life as a woman and therefore it wasn’t something she truly thought about when she laced up her spikes. You can see from this interview that she is very new to the sport and comes from an extremely simple background. It could be something that was never even discussed with her teammates and coaches, and now unfortunately it is turning into a global media story. For that, I do feel sorry for her. But it’s hard enough racing against the best females in the world, who wants to also add to the mix those who have extra testosterone and other beneficial male characteristics?
So what do you make of the story? It will be horrible if it turned out not to be true, but if it is, I think it wouldn’t be fair to let her compete. I guess I feel like the only fair thing that could be done in the future would be to allow them their own category, just as the Paralympians have. But for the immediate future, it just seems like the 800 final will have a fair share of controversy surrounding it.
Some articles: (If you google it, you can find plenty more)
Interview after the Semi’s: