"I Hope Semenya Will Come Out Of This Better Than I Did"

Illustration for article titled I Hope Semenya Will Come Out Of This Better Than I Did

Santhi Soundarajan knows what Caster Semenya is going through, because in 2006, she went through a similar ordeal. "She should not abandon the fight," she says of the South African track and field star.

After winning the silver medal in the 800 m at the Asian Championships in July 2006, Soundarajan was asked to undergo sex testing. Soundarajan had won the same medal the previous year, and in college she set the Indian record for the women's 3,000-m steeplechase, but officials were at the Asian Games became suspicious she was using performance enhancing drugs. Soundarajan was tested, and she failed.

Soundarajan was later diagnosed with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), Time magazine reports. People with AIS are genetically male, but their bodies do not recognize the male sex hormones, including testosterone. This leads their bodies to appear externally female, although their chromosomes tell a different story. Soundarajan reportedly attempted suicide after she was stripped of her silver medal, but she denies these allegations. She has, however, quit running, and there is little chance she will ever return to the track. "I am physically and mentally broken," she says.


Soundarajan now works as a coach. "It was difficult but now finally I feel O.K.," she said in a recent interview. "I like to train children who have not much money but lots of talent. I am living my dream through them."

But she hopes that Semenya will fight back where she was could not. "She should not let them take away her medal," Soundarajan says. "She is a woman and that's it, full stop. A gender test cannot take away from you who you are."

Gender And Athletics: India's Own Caster Semenya [Time]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Phillipa Marlowe

THis is so infuriating. There is no chance that these same women would be tested if they weren't as good as they are, so it really has nothing to do with their supposed 'manly' looks. It has to do completely with them being considered too good to be women.

Therefore, in response, I demand a genetic test of Usain Bolt to prove he doesn't have ladyparts. I chose to believe his awesomeness is because he's a girl. Michael Phelps, too.