South African track head apologizes

Updated: September 19, 2009, 7:59 AM ET
Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa -- South Africa's top track official apologized Saturday for denying knowledge of gender tests done on runner Caster Semenya in the country, saying he lied to protect the athlete's privacy.

Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene told reporters that his constant denials of the tests, which he said he was aware of when they were done in early August, were an "error of judgment" and that never meant to "deceive" the public.

South African officials repeatedly said tests were done on the 800-meter world champion only abroad, not in South Africa.

"I can no longer stand before you and say that I am not aware of gender tests conducted on Caster Semenya," Chuene said. "I felt that at the time I was acting in the best interests of Caster Semenya as a person. I believed at the time my consistent denials would help protect her."

The International Association of Athletics Federations ordered more tests done on the runner in Berlin, saying questions had been raised about her muscular physique, running style and recent stunning improvement in times.

It has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports that Semenya has both male and female characteristics, saying it is reviewing test results and will issue a decision in November on whether the athlete will be allowed to continue to compete in women's events.

Chuene said tests had been done at a Pretoria hospital on Aug. 7 at the behest of the IAAF, adding that it was unclear whether Semenya was informed of the nature of the examinations.

Chuene said that despite medical advice and a request from the IAAF, he refused to withdraw Semenya from the race because there were no results yet from the tests.

"I was not going to stop her talent because of rumors," he said. "On what basis should I have withdrawn her? My only crime committed was to take a decision that she must run, and she won."

Chuene also accused the IAAF of violating her rights and privacy.

"The IAAF publicly revealed her name. The IAAF betrayed her. The IAAF has a lot to answer for," he said.

Chuene is returning to the IAAF board after he resigned over the handling of the matter, but Saturday's news conference is unlikely to ease tensions between the ASA and the international body.

Chuene said he saw no reason for Semenya to be tested and said he would not accept the outcome of results.

He said the ASA was not in possession of any test results and that he could not confirm media reports about her gender.

He denied that Semenya -- the team's most promising star -- had been "sacrificed for a medal."

"It has been deeply disturbing for me to bear witness to the relentless and ongoing controversy surrounding Caster Semenya," he said. "Tell me someone who has not lied to protect a child."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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