Tuesday, September 15, 2009

South African official who quit IAAF on Semenya, returns

Athletics South Africa ordered its president, Leonard Chuene, to rejoin the International Association of Athletics Federations after he quit amid a row over the sex of 800-meter champion Caster Semenya.

“The council of Athletics South Africa has instructed him to go back,” Molatelo Malehopo, the spokesman for the ASA, as it is known, said in a telephone interview from Johannesburg today. “I don’t think he’s got a choice. He hasn’t said no.”

Chuene resigned from the IAAF’s board last week to protest sex tests on 18-year-old Semenya. The IAAF requested the tests last month after the muscular runner recorded dramatic improvements in her times before winning gold at the world championships in Berlin in the fastest time this year.

The IAAF won’t comment on Semenya until studies on gender tests have been completed and before its next meeting on Nov. 20 and 21, it said Sept. 11.

The ASA is not sending Chuene back to the IAAF to protect Semenya, Malehopo said. The organization wants him to represent South Africa’s interests and those of other African nations on the board, he added. Chuene’s mobile phone was not answered today and didn’t take messages.

“We want to hold championships in Africa but many events are taking place in Europe,” Malehopo said. “A lot of the international athletes who are breaking records are coming from Africa.”

Seeking Compensation

South Africa’s government has laid a complaint with the United Nations Division for The Advancement of Women over the treatment of Semenya, the Star newspaper said, citing a letter. The nation’s Parliament will also demand compensation from the IAAF on behalf of Semenya for the “abuse and prejudice that she has been subjected to,” Vytjie Mentor, chairwoman of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprise, said in an e-mail.

The ASA wants the IAAF to apologize to Semenya, her family and “the people of South Africa” because it didn’t follow its constitution and “failed to observe the confidentiality required to handle the matter of this sensitivity and the human rights” of Semenya, the ASA said in a statement today.

Athletics South Africa does not have provisions for sex tests in its constitution, Malehopo said, while the IAAF does have a policy. Accusations that the ASA could have handled the row over Semenya differently or protected her from world scrutiny were unfounded because the South African athletics body followed its provisions, he added.

The South African Medial Association and the Democratic Nursing Association of South Africa today called for the country’s’ government to protect Semenya’s rights.