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Male or female?
Date: 2009/08/20 20:35 By: KatiePery Status: User  
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The IAAF has given new meaning to the term "governing body."

The organization, which oversees track and field internationally, has asked the South African athletics federation to conduct a gender verification exam on the nation's running sensation, Caster Semenya, who Wednesday won the 800-meter event at the World Championships in Berlin.

Semenya finished in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds, the best time in the world this year. Behind her were Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya (1:57.90) and Jennifer Meadows of Great Britain (1:57.93).

Results won't be available for several weeks, apparently because gender verification has become much more intricate than it was in 1968, when the International Olympic Committee first called for such tests.

The IAAF requested the testing about three weeks ago, when Semenya finished an 800-meter race in Mauritius in 1:56.72, seven seconds faster than her previous best.

The South African track and field federation has neither confirmed nor denied that tests are underway. But if they are, scientists are likely working on a sample of cellular matter donated through a cheek swab, and are looking at chromosomal and hormonal patterns. According to sport by-laws, the panel would include an endocrinologist, a psychologist and others.

There have been numerous instances of outright deception, as well as more ambiguous cases in which athletes classified as women have lived their whole lives with male chromosomal material that they weren't aware of.

In the 1930s, German high jumper Dora Ratjen was revealed to be a man named Hermann, competing as a woman, he claimed, at the insistence of a Nazi government obsessed with the nation's supremacy.

In 1964, Polish runner Ewa Klobukowska won two medals at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo but in 1967 failed a chromosome test.

The most notorious gender mystery in sports may be that of Stella Walsh, the Polish sprinter who won several Olympic gold medals in the 1930s. After Walsh was shot and killed during an armed robbery in 1980, an autopsy revealed she possessed both male and female genitalia.

South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane told the Associated Press that there was no cheating on his team's part.

"We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way," Mlangeni-Tsholetsane told The AP. "Our conscience is clear in terms of Caster. We have no reservations at all about that."
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