Caster Semenya, the 19-year-old track star who was at the center of a worldwide gender controversy at last year's World Championships, wants to return to competitive running. She made the announcement the same day she was denied a chance to run in a meet in South Africa was denied because results from her gender verification test have not yet been released.
The defending world champion in the 800-meter insists she has done nothing wrong and believes she should be allowed to run while the IAAF continues to review test results that will determine whether Semenya is eligible to run as a woman. The tests were initially supposed to come back in October. Unconfirmed reports in the foreign press said Semenya's tests showed she had both male and female sex organs, but the IAAF has refused to confirm or deny the claims.
On Tuesday, Semenya tried to enter a meet in a city near Cape Town but was turned down despite pleas from her coaches and lawyers. She declined to speak to reporters, but released a statement soon after. It said, in part:
"I am of the firm view that there is no impediment to me competing in athletics competitions. I will however continue to assist the IAAF with whatsoever they may require for their own processes and in this regard I have instructed my legal and medical team to work closely with, and continue negotiation with them for these purposes."
"Given that I have rightfully not been disqualified nor suspended from athletics competitions and given also that I expected these processes to be expedited I, on my own volition, resolved not to compete in athletics competitions until these processes had been completed. Unfortunately these processes have dragged on for far too long with no reasonable certainty as to their end."
The release of a carefully-parsed, 599-word statement hours after Semenya was rebuffed in her attempt to run suggest that this was more of a public relations move rather than an actual effort to compete in Tuesday's race. Surely Semenya and her people had to know that she wouldn't be allowed to run.
It's a smart move. Semenya quickly fell out of the worldwide spotlight after the controversy hit. Before today I had forgotten all about her, and I write about sports every day. By getting her name back into the news, Semenya is forcing the IAAF's hand. It could backfire, but it's only fair for the track governing body to let her know the results so she can either get on with her life or begin the long appeals process. The prevalence of legalese in the lengthy statement suggest that her lawyers may be expecting the former.