Neil Featherby: Why the Caster Semenya case is an absolute minefield
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A couple of weeks ago, Chris Lakey (EDP Sports Editor), made mention to his thoughts with regards to the outcome from the five time World and Olympic 800 metre gold medallist Caster Semenya’s case against the IAAF in his Saturday morning column.
I immediately sent him an email saying that I had also very nearly written about the subject in my column that week, but then decided otherwise. However, I was in full agreement with him and from my very limited knowledge of the subject, I did also say that I could only see further problems ahead for sport.
However, the truth is that this really does all go well over my head and I am a million miles away from being qualified to have an expert opinion on such a delicate subject.
My only real reason for even daring to write about this matter is because just like Chris and of course so many others, at the time of reading his column, we shared the same opinion in respect of feeling sorry for her what with having been subject to so much worldwide attention and even criticism for many years.
Having also had a few emails from friends and running experts as to what I did actually think, I thought it best to do a bit more research especially if I was going to write about it.
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Needless to say having now done so I also now realise that it really is not just as simple as saying she has been unfairly treated or dare I say that the right decision was indeed made to ban her from competing against other females.
Talk about a minefield and I most certainly would not have wanted to be one of those people who had to make such a decision after sifting through papers and listening to those who are the qualified experts.
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In a nutshell, Caster, due to an abnormality with her chromosomes which apparently effects 1.7 percent of the population, results in her having testosterone levels which are much higher in her body than what is expected in women due to what is known as hyperandrogenism.
At the same time her chromosomes do not fit into that of what is regarded as being normal for a female. However, she has been told that if she takes medication for a set period of time to reduce her testosterone levels to what is considered to be in the normal range for a female, she will then be allowed to compete against other women although one report which I did read suggested she did this in 2011 and she still took gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.
As to whether all the information I have gathered is completely correct, that I cannot be 100 percent sure of particularly as there is so much out there, be it the official reports along with that from other leading experts which of course offer some varied opinions due to what is apparently a ruling which only applies to females competing in events from the 400 metres to the mile.
Seemingly, more evidence has to be researched and is required before making the same judgement at distances above this and hence why I know I am well and truly out of my depth when it really does come to talking about this subject.
With regards to what I now think based upon what I have researched, well, all I am going to say is that I do now have a better understanding (I think) of the ruling made. At the same time though, I still think that Caster Semenya is an amazing athlete and, most importantly, an amazing human being.
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