Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
4 May 2019
11:00 am

It is not all doom and gloom for Caster

Wesley Botton

I she calls it quits now, the athletics authorities win.

Wesley Botton.

Perhaps for the first time this week, in an ongoing battle for the right to compete against women which has lasted nearly 10 years, Caster Semenya showed a glimmer of weakness.

Sharing a post on social media which suggested it was best to know when to move on, Semenya hinted that the latest hurdle placed in her way might just be enough to force her to hang up her spikes.

But as much as she may feel the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules restricting athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) are unfair, and she has the entire weight of a human rights argument behind her, taking medication to reduce her testosterone levels and quitting the sport are not the only options left available to her.

From next week, Semenya will need to prove she has lowered her natural testosterone levels to what the IAAF considers to be appropriate, and as we’ve seen in the past, this is likely to slow her down when she eventually returns to the track.

And if she does retire now, she’ll have a lot to show for it.

If you offered most athletes a career which included three world titles, two Olympic titles and a 600m world best, they would take it gladly.

But if Semenya calls it quits now, the athletics authorities win.

After putting up a fight for the last decade, if she quits, the people who have tried so hard to stop her progress on the track will be victorious. And it’ll be that much harder for the next athlete whose dignity is trampled on by athletics officials to make a stand.

At this point, Semenya will have to rely on unlikely rule changes in the imminent future if we are ever to see her at her best again over distances ranging from 400m to the mile.

But as much as it may seem the IAAF has beaten her down following a split decision by a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel, her simple presence in the sport will be enough to see her back on top.

If she’s had enough of what is potentially harmful medication, which she’s had to take in the past in order to abide by previous IAAF regulations, Semenya’s potential in the 5 000m event remains a real option.

With the IAAF omitting the longer distance from its DSD rules, Semenya could continue to compete without doing anything to alter the way she was born.

She has competed only twice in the 5 000m event, both this year. First she won the Gauteng North provincial title in Pretoria, and then she charged to the South African title against a strong domestic line-up in Germiston.

And though she has not yet turned out at sea level over 12-anda-half laps and it remains unclear whether she has the speed endurance to be competitive at the highest level, she has certainly displayed enough potential to give it a go.

While it is not an Olympic event, the 3 000m distance is also open to Semenya, and it’s another distance at which she has displayed tremendous potential.

She may have been discouraged by the CAS decision this week, but it is rare for Semenya to display even the slightest weakness either on or off the track.

Once she’s had time to think it over, she might realise it’s not all doom and gloom after all.

Regardless of whether she can chase gold, if Semenya is competitive in the women’s 5 000m final at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, it’ll be enough to rattle the powers that be who run the sport.

If she wants to emerge victorious, she needs to keep pushing back because it is that determination to keep fighting which has been her greatest triumph.

And the battle has not yet been won.

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