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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South Africa's gold medalist Caster Semenya to go gender test after winning 800m in Berlin

BERLIN (AP)—Facing questions about her gender, South African teenager Caster Semenya easily won the 800-meter gold medal Wednesday at the world championships.

Semenya’s dominating run came on the same day track and field’s ruling body said she was undergoing a gender test because of concerns she does not meet requirements to compete as a woman.

Semenya took the lead at the halfway mark and opened a commanding lead in the last 400 meters to win by a massive 2.45 seconds in a world-leading 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. Defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei was second and Jennifer Meadows of Britain was third in 1:57.93.

About three weeks ago, the international federation asked South African track and field authorities to conduct the verification test. Semenya had burst onto the scene by posting a world-leading time of 1:56.72 at the African junior championships in Maruitius.

Her dramatic improvement in times, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender. Before the race, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies stressed this is a “medical issue, not an issue of cheating.” He said the “extremely complex, difficult” test has begun but results were not expected for weeks.

The test requires a physical medical evaluation and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.

South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane would not confirm or deny that Semenya was having such a test.

“We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way,” Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. “Our conscience is clear in terms of Caster. We have no reservations at all about that.”

Although medals will be awarded for the 800, the race remains under a cloud until the investigation is closed, and Semenya could be stripped of the gold depending on the test results, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss said.

“But today there is no proof and the benefit of doubt must always be in favor of the athlete,” Weiss said.

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