Fri | Apr 3, 2020

Laurie Foster | Tread carefully, IAAF

Published:Wednesday | May 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
South Africa’s Caster Semenya wins the women’s 1500m during the Qatar Diamond League in Doha, Qatar, on May 4.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has altered its rules regarding the participation of female athletes who have naturally generated elevated levels of testosterone.

It is now saying that this group must take daily doses of medication to reduce the amount of the hormone or run events of 5000 metres or more. If they choose to continue to compete at distances of 400m to the mile, they can only do so against men. Foster's Fairplay scores this as extremely harsh, as athletes had been indulged in their questioned state for years, reaping the success that was legitimate then, but suddenly ruled as breaches of the new laws.

There can be no doubt that these changes have been instituted to halt or at least challenge the progress of the South African double Olympic and World Champion, Caster Semenya.

There is substantial thought that there should be a new category - one cannot imagine how it could be appropriately named to preserve the athlete's dignity - for athletes who fall in this area. If this route were taken, there would have to be a predetermined level beyond which the designation of 'female' would not apply. To complete the process of setting up, a cut-off point would have to be mandated after which the question of 'male' would enter the equation. With all that in place, how would the IAAF react when the same athlete is assessed to be jumping from one level to another by virtue of further tests to be carried out during the career? Would the athlete be in-between for the Olympics and transfer to man or back to woman for the following year's World Championships?

So as not to open up the athletes in question to further indignity, Foster's Fairplay, as a layman with no medical training, is suggesting that

1. When an athlete first comes under the testing regime instituted by the IAAF, a gender determination is made.

2. If this turns out to be inconclusive, the athlete should not be allowed to compete.

3. Unless the athlete undergoes a sex change and is certified as such by accredited medical personnel, the original call should be maintained.

The entire assessment process ought to be behind closed doors and away from the gaze of the public. Foster's Fairplay does not embrace the concept that these ultra-private aspects of a young woman's life should be played out in the public space. This should not be what a desire to represent one's country is all about.

The track and field family laid to rest last weekend a former administrator and giant of a man whose contribution was beyond the call of duty. Bon voyage, Pat Anderson, your passing has left a void which may never be filled.

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