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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Carl Lewis blames South Africa fed for Semenya's predicament

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Retired American track and field star Carl Lewis has blamed South African athletics authorities for the predicament of the nation's world champion Caster Semenya, whom a report says is a hermaphrodite.

The IAAF, athletics' world governing body, said last week medical experts were examining the results of gender tests on Semenya, who won the women's 800 meters at last month's world championships in Berlin.

No decision is expected until late November but the IAAF has declined to confirm a report last week in Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which said the runner had both male and female sexual characteristics.

Lewis said he was upset by the handling of the affair.

"Here is an 18-year-old young woman, because that's what she feels she is, let down every step along the way... the South African federation should have dealt with it and I think the federation let her down," Lewis said on a visit to Tel Aviv on Monday.

"It is your fault," he said accusingly to the South African athletics federation. "She is your athlete in your country and you didn't deal with this before.

"To put it out in front of the world like that, I am very disappointed in them because I feel that it is unfair to her."

"Now, for the rest of her life she'll be marked as 'the one'."

South African President Jacob Zuma has decried the invasion of Semenya's privacy and what he called the violation of her rights.

Some South Africans have accused the IAAF of racism for ordering the gender tests on Semenya, saying her broad shoulders and imposing musculature were common in women's athletics.

Lewis said he thought Semenya, who destroyed the field in Berlin to win in one minute, 55.45 seconds, the year's fastest time, a personal best and a national record, should be allowed to keep her gold medal.

(Editing by N.Ananthanarayanan)