Caster Semenya: Official mismanagement and media confusion

Yesterday reportage on the participation of South Africa’s 800m women’s world champion, Caster Semenya, in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games was confused. Britain’s Guardian carried two contrasting stories in its online edition.

Tubby Reddy, the chief executive of South Africa’s Olympic Committee, confirmed tonight that the 800m world champion was not fit enough to make her return to major competition. “Caster has been experiencing back pain for some period of time and continued to have pain after competing in a cross-country event at the weekend,” said Reddy. “Our doctor has since examined her and referred her for an MRI scan. This scan confirmed that she most certainly has a back problem.”

Claimed the first article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/sep/28/caster-semenya-commonwealth-games

and:

Caster Semenya will be fit for next month’s Commonwealth Games in India despite reports speculating that she could withdraw due to injury. The world 800m champion has shown good signs of improvement ever since returning from an 11-month track absence in mid-July…”She had a slight pain in the back but the issue has been blown slightly out of proportion,” [coach] Michael Seme said. “She’s going to be 100% fit. We are training and will be there.

then, declared the second:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/sep/28/caster-semenya-commmonwealth-games-800m

South Africa’s Commonwealth Games authorities have issued an embarrassing rebuke to the coach of Caster Semenya by ruling the 800m world champion out of the Delhi Games. Michael Seme, Semenya’s mentor, said on Tuesday his athlete was “still coming to India”, only for South African officials to withdraw her from the Games hours later.

Alex Brown of the Sydney Morning Herald reported later the same day:

http://www.smh.com.au/commonwealth-games-2010/comm-games-news/south-africa-issues-embarrassing-rebuke-to-semenyas-coach-20100929-15w5g.html

At one stage it was difficult to know who is right and who is wrong amid the competing claims. But for OII one issue stands out: that this current sequence of claim and counter claim continues a prolonged period of turmoil that can only do further harm to Ms. Semenya.

It  comes after an almost dizzying 18 months during which the minutiae of the athlete’s biological sex became global public property following media speculation and leaked reports undertaken by the IAAF in an attempt to establish the athlete’s credentials to compete as a female. There has been little peace for Caster Semenya since!

Hormone treatment [has] contributed to the back injury that has ruled her out of the Commonwealth Games.

The Herald Sun speculated in a “gossip article” today:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/hormone-drugs-weaken-caster-semenya/story-fn65k7vp-1225932032595

Regardless of Caster Semenya’s participation at New Delhi it should not be too much to expect that this kind controversy would have been avoided in the future. To date there is little sign of that happening. The innuendo of the recent past is already rearing its ugly head with  little recognition of the harm that has already been done to Ms Semenya by similar behavior in the recent past.