Editorial

Caster Semenya must be allowed to run free

24 February 2019 - 00:00 By Sunday Times


Caster Semenya will have a clear idea of her future in athletics by March 26, the deadline by which the Court of Arbitration for Sport has promised to deliver judgment in her case.
It could be sooner. Medical experts on both sides of the divide over athletes with hyperandrogenism testified in Lausanne this week. Even one of Semenya's vociferous critics, South African sports scientist Ross Tucker, gave evidence in her favour.
In the build-up to the Rio Olympics in 2016, Tucker insisted that Semenya gained an advantage from her higher levels of naturally occurring testosterone.
He watched her win the 400m, 800m and 1,500m titles at the national championships that year, then predicted she could win all three events in Brazil.
Semenya won the 800m but has yet to dominate the world in the other two. She's been chipping away consistently at her South African 800m mark and broke the national records in the 400m and 1,500m.
The 1min 54.25sec she ran last year is the fourth-fastest 800m of all time for women. Her 49.62sec in the 400m is 45th in the world and fifth in Africa, and her 3:59.92 in the 1,500m is 103rd on the world's all-time list and 18th in Africa.
The theory that Semenya purposely held back to avoid breaking at least the 800m world record to try to prove she doesn't get an advantage from the testosterone is rot.
Last year in Monaco, when she missed the 800m world record, her manager was clearly disappointed. Semenya comforted him, telling him it would come. She is almost a full second slower than the world record of 1:53.28, which is track and field's longest-standing mark, dating back to July 1983.
There is no guarantee she will get there, but she'll certainly try.
Semenya is unlikely to improve by 2.02sec to reach the 400m world record (47.60) or by 9.85sec in the 1,500m (world record 3:50.07).
Tucker doesn't seem to have changed his views on Semenya getting an advantage, but he believes the science the IAAF relied on is flawed. He fought for Semenya this week.
If Semenya wins, hopefully her fight to compete unfettered will be over.

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