Caster Semenya is having trouble finding sponsors after gender controversy


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The investigation surrounding Caster Semenya’s gender may be over, but her troubles have not ended.

After becoming the first black South African woman to win gold at a world championship in Berlin last August, and being labeled the country’s ‘Golden Girl,’ companies are hesitant to back the 19-year-old whose reputation has been tarnished by a gender controversy and 11-month layoff from competition.


Semenya’s competitors accused her of being a man, but after gender tests, she was cleared to compete as a female athlete. Still, her manager Tshepo Seema said she can’t find a sponsor ‘because of the negative publicity.’ Rumors circulated at the time, with some claims in the media that Semenya had been found to be hermaphrodite, which the International Association of Athletics Federations, the organization that had ordered gender tests, distanced itself from. Family and supporters of Semenya in South Africa took umbrage at the claims. Still, the taint from the episode lingers.

‘We have been to various companies, motor companies, cellphone companies, restaurant chains, a whole range of companies,’ Seema said, ‘but we can’t get sponsorship because of the negative publicity in the last couple of months. It’s not good for Caster.’

In an attempt to directly appeal to fans, the world-class athlete launched a cellphone text-message campaign in September to raise money. A message gives 70 cents to her cause.

‘My promise to the nation is that through excellence and resilience I will strive to live up to the reputation of being known as the Golden Girl,’ Semenya said.

-- Melissa Rohlin