Caster Semenya has only been back on the track for a couple months since her gender testing ordeal, and already she’s kicking butt. At her third race since returning to competition, Semenya placed first in Berlin in the 800m. Not that her fellow runners are cheering her on.
And they’re not even requesting anonymity from reporters.
Despite their sympathy for her on a human level, several athletes spoke of their frustration that their own rights had been brushed aside by the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations to allow the 19 year-old to return so early. “It’s obviously a human rights issue but human rights affect everyone in the race, not just one person,” said Britain’s Jemma Simpson, who finished fourth in 2min 0.57sec. “The rest of the field just gets ignored.” She added: “No way is it a personal issue but it’s a debate about what is right and fair for everyone. It’s a really tough subject and a lot of people are very careful about what they say. You have to be. You have to be diplomatic and keep your opinions to yourself but sometimes it is so frustrating.”
Canada’s Diane Cummins, who was eighth in Sunday’s race, was not so diplomatic, suggesting the authorities needed to think again about where they set the level of testosterone that qualifies athletes to compete in female races. “As athletes we feel frustrated because everyone is allowed to give their opinion except us,” said Cummins. “If we give an honest opinion, we’re either seen as bad sports or we’re not happy because we’re being beaten. But that’s not the case. Jemma and I have been beaten tons of times by athletes who we feel are doing it in the realm of what is considered female. Unfortunately for Caster, she’s grown up in an environment that is complicated not just for her but for human science. Basically, is she man, is she lady? What constitutes male, what constitutes female?” She added: “Even if she is a female, she’s on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So, from that perspective, most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man.”
But the award for most sports(wo)manship must go to Italy’s Elisa Cusma Piccione, who last year said, “For me, she is a man.” Piccione, who finished third on Sunday, refused additional comment.