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Semenya: A girl who just wants to run…

Dirk Lotriet, The Citizen

How fair or civilised is it to force a girl who just wants to run at the highest level to undergo potentially harmful treatment?

All eyes in the Lotriet household are firmly focused on Caster Semenya’s court case against the International Athletics Federation in Switzerland.

Well, not all the eyes – the children are not interested in anything besides Paw Patrol or food. But Snapdragon champions the feminist cause in our home and sometimes outside, while I’m an athletics lover who is fascinated by the controversy surrounding our seemingly invincible 800m supergirl.

As a patriotic South African, I know who I support, but it is impossible to decide who is right and wrong. Not even the 15 experts who will testify – five for the IAAF and 10 for Caster – can agree, so how on earth can I make an informed decision?

For the sake of readers who haven’t followed the issue: the IAAF wants women athletes with a high testosterone level to undergo therapy to make them eligible to compete internationally.

Semenya has approached the Court of Arbitration to force them to drop the proposed rule.

Of course, you have to have sympathy for the IAAF. Their president, Sebastian Coe – himself a former track superstar and one of my childhood idols – says they’re only trying to create a level playing field.

Which is praiseworthy – don’t we all want to see a bit of fairness in an otherwise unfair world?

But then, how fair or civilised is it to force a girl who just wants to run at the highest level to undergo potentially harmful treatment?

The IAAF claims the new regulation is not aimed at the South African star, but she is clearly the athlete who is most affected by it.

They are targeting all track distances between 400m and the mile for this new rule – incidentally the exact distances at which Caster competes.

Let’s take a moment to think about the poor judges at the court of arbitration. This landmark case is an absolute minefield, and it is difficult to see an outcome that will satisfy everyone in the world.

But let’s hope wisdom prevails.

As a parent, I hope for a world where the two-year-old Egg will be allowed to compete to her potential in her chosen field one day.

And if you wish this upon your own offspring, why try to deny this to a girl from rural Limpopo?

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