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Doubters should back off Semenya

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd August 2009 03:00 AM

THE New York Times article of Sunday, May 26, 1996 under the headline ‘Mutola Outruns Foes And Ignores Sniping’ memorably wrote: “It is unfortunate that a woman draws suspicion just because she is fast and muscular and does not conform to a Western

THE New York Times article of Sunday, May 26, 1996 under the headline ‘Mutola Outruns Foes And Ignores Sniping’ memorably wrote: “It is unfortunate that a woman draws suspicion just because she is fast and muscular and does not conform to a Western

BY NORMAN KATENDE

I SAY SO


THE New York Times article of Sunday, May 26, 1996 under the headline ‘Mutola Outruns Foes And Ignores Sniping’ memorably wrote: “It is unfortunate that a woman draws suspicion just because she is fast and muscular and does not conform to a Western ideal of femininity.”

From allegations of using drugs to her being accused of actually being a man, Maria Mutola managed to keep calm and went on to dominate the middle distance for over ten years.

After Mutola’s retirement from running, South African Castor Semenya — who dominated Mutola’s favoured distance, 800m, at the Berlin World Athletics Championships — is undergoing the same damaging scrutiny over her gender/sexuality.

She has been ridiculed and told that she was supposed to undergo a gender verification test to prove that she is female just moments before she competed in the 800m heats. Despite the obvious embarrassment, Semenya went on to comfortably win the final.

One wonders: If sport is supposed to be universal and all-embracing like all international bodies say, why should we elect to go for an extremely complex procedure to check for one’s gender? Has the effect on the athlete been taken into account?

It’s not entirely surprising that Semenya — who should be proud of competing in the World Athletics Championships — reached the point of asking her coach why she was brought in Germany to be ridiculed.

I think that Semenya’s case is a result of a bad-loser attitude; competitors look at the prizes being offered and forget the essence of sports, where you can either win or lose. I also await to hear the apologies that will be extended to Semenya if the test affirms she is female.

nkatende@newvision.co.ug

Doubters should back off Semenya

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