Sports

Caster Semenya fights back against comments from Sebastian Coe, track’s top official

International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF, president Britain’s Sebastian Coe leaves a
Head of the track federation Sebastian Coe, shown March 25 in Lausanne, Switzerland, says the rare DSD condition constitutes an unfair advantage in the sport.
(Laurent Gillieron / Associated Press)

South African runner Caster Semenya has lashed back at Sebastian Coe, the head of the international track federation, for reopening “old wounds” with comments he made about her case before an international court.

The two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters is embroiled in a dispute regarding female athletes born with “difference of sexual development,” or DSD, meaning they have natural but unusually high levels of testosterone.

The track federation believes this rare condition constitutes an unfair advantage and has proposed a rule that would mean women with DSD would either have to alter their body chemistry through medication or race against men.

Semenya has faced scrutiny since bursting onto the scene as teenager, winning gold at the 2009 world championships.

Over the weekend, Coe — president of IAAF, the governing body for track and field — told the Daily Telegraph of Australia: “The reason we have gender classification is because if you didn’t then no woman would ever win another title or another medal or break another record in our sport.”

Though Semenya has largely avoided commenting in public, she responded in a statement through her lawyers, saying DSDs “should be celebrated in sports like all other genetic variations that make elite athletes worth watching.”

“Ms. Semenya does not wish to undergo medical intervention to change who she is or how she was born,” the statement said. “She wants to compete naturally.”

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport recently heard testimony from experts on both sides of the debate and was scheduled to issue a decision in late April.

“Mr. Coe is wrong to think Ms. Semenya is a threat to women’s sport,” the athlete stated. “Ms. Semenya is a heroine and inspirational role model for young girls around the world who dream of achieving excellence in sport.”

david.wharton@latimes.com

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