Caster casts aside shackles
Caster Semenya has been chosen to carry the South African flag at the opening of the Olympic Games next Friday night. The athlete has publicly expressed her hope that she has outrun the cloud of controversy that dogged her.
In the 2009 World Championships, Semenya, then 18, won the 800m world title in Berlin. But she came home to a maelstrom of controversy about her sex.
This year, the 21-year-old will lead South Africa's 125-strong contingent into the Olympic Stadium as one of the country's main medal contenders.
Semenya "disappeared" for 10 months after the International Association of Athletics Federations revealed that there was "uncertainty" over her sex and tests would be conducted.
The controversy continued at home, where the president of Athletics South Africa, Leonard Chuene, lied about medical opinion on withdrawing Semenya from the 2009 World Championships.
It was argued that Semenya was genetically male and thereby had an unfair advantage over her female competitors.
Sports research scientist Ross Tucker said: "We don't know whether Semenya had such a condition [sexual development disorder], and nor should we. This is medical information and so should be kept confidential. The leak about her testing was the first mistake back in 2009 and it should never have happened.
"There is understandable secrecy about the medical information from the 10-month absence. We may never know exactly what happened."
Speaking to The Times yesterday, the athlete's mother, Dorcas Semenya, said the family did not worry about the allegations.
"It was God who carried Caster and the family through the controversy. The entire family did not worry about what was being said about her. It is all behind us now."
Tucker said an agreement would have been reached between Semenya and the IAAF for her to race again.
"We can deduce from the length of time that it took, and the legal discussions that were going on, that the IAAF and Semenya had to reach some kind of agreement before she could compete.
"This agreement probably focused on getting her eligible to compete," he said.
The IAAF, upon clearing her to race again, said her case would remain confidential, but confirmed that medical experts had determined that she could compete as a woman.
Dorcas Semenya reiterated that she had never had doubts about her daughter's gender.
"My response to the entire saga was that I was the one who gave birth to her. If anyone knows her gender it would be me," she said.
"I also told her that she knows who she is and should not even consider what others were saying."
Semenya was cleared to run in July 2010. She won silver at the world championships in Daegu in South Korea last year, but has not been as fast as before the sex controversy.
She has, however, shown signs of her old form with a time of under two minutes for the 800m. Her best time is 1min 55.45sec, which she ran in Berlin in 2009. Since then she has run two races close to those times - in Daegu and in April this year.