The South African government has reportedly complained to the United Nations over the treatment of controversial track and field star Caster Semenya.
The 18-year-old has made headlines around the world after it was revealed that the IAAF (International Amateur Athletics Federation) had ordered her to undergo gender tests. British newspaper The Times reported that South Africa’s Minister for Women, Children and People With Disabilities Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya filed the action on behalf of Semenya, who won the world 800m title in Berlin last month. Semenya has been feted as a national heroine since returning home to South Africa and a number of leading politicians from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government have thrown their weight behind her. South African president Jacob Zuma laid on a special ceremony in Pretoria and she has also met 91-year-old former head of state Nelson Mandela. The ANC claim the gender testing of Semenya is “sexist and racist” but the role of the ruling body of South Africa athletics has also been called into question. Her former coach Wilfred Daniels quit claiming he had let Semenya down because she was subjected to gender tests even before going to Berlin.
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Athletics South Africa has denied the allegations and wants a commission of inquiry to set the record straigth over its involvement. Semenya herself has variously posed for a glamour photo shoot in a South African magazine and made an unsuccessful return to competition by dropping out of the national cross country championships at the weekend. The IAAF has still to publish the results of its tests, but has indicated that she is unlikely to be stripped of her global title, merely asked to stop competing if they prove unfavorable. Semenya burst onto the world scene earlier this year, trimming over three seconds off her best for the 800 meters before finishing well clear of her nearest rivals in last month’s world championship final. Shortly before the final, reports emerged that the IAAF had ordered gender tests, sparking a controversy which shows little sign of abating.