Generally, South Africa’s double-Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya is a noticeably shy, reserved person. Had it not been for her vocation as a world-renowned athlete, I bet, too few people would know about her. In fact so reserved in many respects is Caster that away from the track and field little is known about her private life despite her celebrity status.
Many negative things have been said and written about her and sometimes the social media, in their unkind nature, has poked fun at her without any fear of reprisals. In spite of all the provocations – and aplenty they’ve been -one hardly ever hear a raised voice of SA’s golden girl of athletics. What a lady!
Very few irritations since she first won her title in 2009 have caused her to be utterly incensed as has been the case with the recent diabolical attack on her nature by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The IAAF, in a move many observers and analysts agree is targeting Semenya, has come up with ludicrous “eligibility regulations for female classification”. This means new rules for athletes with differences in sex development. Something, I opine, that is truly the consequence of both nature and creation in their rawest form.
In recent times, the IAAF has opened itself to scrutiny and criticism following some dubious decisions. An example was when the world athletics body came like a ton of bricks on individual athletes of the Russian origin on the basis of the so-called State-sponsored doping scandal. Now, it is all well and indeed important that the IAAF deal harshly with any case of doping in their midst. However, the harshest penalties, such as banning athletes from competitions, need to be credible. In other words, the IAAF has to produce a portfolio of evidence to back up their claims against targeted athletes.
Yet in the case of Russia, dozens of athletes remain in limbo because the IAAF’s task force has recently upheld the indefinite banning of the Russia Athletics Federation, thereby punishing basically the entire mass of individual sports men and women affiliated to the national body. In fact, so harsh is the attitude of the IAAF to the Russian athletes that whereas they deem them banned from competitions, the IAAF nevertheless doesn’t mind when the Russian athletes dump their country’s flag and compete as so-called neutrals.
Now, this seems quite the opposite of the dictates of fair-play and natural justice. But even more worrying, seems like the IAAF’s attitude and hardened position is based on factors outside of sports, such as a geo-politics. This, if one day is proven true, will be sad indeed. For, such is a recipe for the collapse of even great and once mighty organizations.
For South Africa, it is encouraging to note the determined support for Semenya from the government through the Department of Sport and Recreation. Athletes South Africa, too, has thrown its weight behind Semenya’s bold challenge to the IAAF. Praise goes also to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) which through its wonderful president Gideon Sam has undertaken to be with Semenya as she takes the IAAF head-on at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Too often evil thrive when good people elect to keep quiet in the interest of peace. Yet peace itself without justice is tantamount to violence. The whole country, and indeed the world, need to rally behind Semenya, the athlete who hails from humble beginnings and had to pull herself up by her boot-straps to reach her heights. Now the IAAF wants to take away her boots. And then, typically, the IAAF will be the first to scream at the bootless Semenya: Pull yourself up by your boot-straps. It’s a strange we’re living in.