Hostile US article sets Caster fans a-Twitter

14 August 2016 - 02:00 By MONICA LAGANPARSAD
Two Caster Semenya supporters show their feelings on #HandsOffCaster.
Two Caster Semenya supporters show their feelings on #HandsOffCaster.

South Africa has your back, Caster Semenya. US journalist Tim Layden yesterday incurred the wrath of South Africans, who lashed out at him on Twitter for an opinion piece in Sports Illustrated this week.

The article was ''Is it fair for Caster Semenya to compete against women at the Rio Olympics?" and its blurb read: "Caster Semenya should dominate the 800m in Rio, but issues raised by her participation will be discussed long after the race ends."

With his piece, Layden entered the tired debate around Semenya's intersex condition, which he said would give her the edge in Saturday's 800m final.

In 2010, she was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations before getting the all clear.


Layden wrote that Semenya's condition causes her to be "hyperandrogenous - her body produces much higher levels of testosterone than most other females. And that in turn builds greater muscle mass and allows her to run faster."

He added: "Semenya ... has never publicly confirmed any of this, and declined to comment to Sports Illustrated this week."

He said Semenya's races in Rio ''will trigger an emotional debate on gender and sport".

The backlash was quick.

#HandsOffCaster was soon trending on Twitter, with angry South Africans rushing to defend the athlete.

Oratile Mratha wrote: "Dear Sport Illustrated #HandsOffCaster please, she will talk volumes later on when running."

Eusebius McKaiser tweeted: "Fantastic to see #HandsOffCaster is top trending. Any apologists for the bigoted anthropologising and trolling of her body will be blocked."

Even Semenya got in on the action, thanking South Africa for the support, tweeting ''I love you Mzansi" and a motivational poster that read: ''Be happy in front of your haters. It kills them."

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said from Rio yesterday: "South Africans understand very well that injustice has never thrived over justice ... We are saying: 'Caster, bring back gold.'"

Semenya will be on the track on Wednesday for the 800m heats, a firm favourite to win Saturday's final.