Too Little, Too Late: Semenya's Gender Test Results Won't Be Made Public

Illustration for article titled Too Little, Too Late: Semenya's Gender Test Results Won't Be Made Public

In a reversal, the IAAF says it will not be releasing the results of Caster Semenya's gender tests. And, according to a statement by the South Africa sports ministry, Semenya will keep her medal and prize money.


The entire gender testing process had been likely distressing for Semenya and confusing for everyone else — while news was leaked in September that she had both male and female characteristics, the IAAF's official report on her gender tests was expected either Friday or February 20. Now the group says in a statement,

The IAAF will not comment upon the medical aspects of Caster Semenya's case. There will be no discussion of Caster Semenya's case at the forthcoming IAAF Council Meeting. ... No further comment will be made on this subject until further notice.

Athletics South Africa elaborates,

The implications of the scientific findings on Caster's health and life going forward will be analysed by Caster and she will make her own decision on her future. Whatever she decides, ours is to respect her decision.

If only this had been everyone's attitude all along, Semenya might have been spared a lot of public embarrassment. ASA adds that she will keep her medal and prize money from the August world championships, because she is "innocent of any wrong." They have also asked the IAAF to apologize for its handling of Semenya's case, but the IAAF responds that it wasn't responsible for making the details public. In fact, they say they are investigating the behavior of ASA president Leonard Chuene after he lied about whether Semenya had been gender-tested before the world championships. Chuene has resigned from the IAAF and been suspended from South Africa's Olympic governing body.

In its statement, ASA says, "there will be no public announcement of what the panel of scientists has found. We urge all South Africans and other people to respect this professional ethical and moral way of doing things." But if everyone had been professional, ethical, and moral, Semenya never would have been subjected to public speculation about her sex organs. Hopefully the IAAF's decision will give her back a measure of privacy, but those who violated this privacy in the first place still have a lot to answer for.


South African Runner Still Undergoing Sex-Verification Tests [NYT]
Caster Semenya Found 'Innocent Of Any Wrong' To Retain 800m Gold Medal [Guardian]
Semenya To Keep Gold Medal - SA Ministry [CNN]



It is really unfortunate that world class sports don't seem to be able to control what should be private information. This is an extreme case, given the nature of the investigation but similarly with doping offenses, often what should be a confidential first result that an athlete can challenge in court or by requiring a re-test is leaked to the public, thereby ruining the athlete's career and reputation, regardless of validity. This is a problem not limited to sports either. I'm nostalgic for a time when confidentiality (even of an event that might be deemed newsworthy) truly existed.