Some track and field experts are wondering if Caster Semenya out of South Africa might have thrown her race on purpose. Semenya, who was originally banned from competing in the past after questions emerged about her gender, is believed to have deliberately tanked the race in order to avoid the scrutiny that comes with a gold medal.
The 800-meter run, won by Russia’s Mariya Savinova, didn’t appear to be the contest that it could have been, since some thought that Semenya literally slowed down throughout the race so that she would not win. After winning the world championships in 2009, Semenya was banned for 11 months as experts debated whether or not she was actually a woman.
In this race, Semenya was at the back of the pack and didn’t push forward until the last 200 meters, leaving plenty of gas in her tank. Slate.com discusses:
After the race, track and field aficionados questioned her tactics. The BBC’s David Ornstein said it appeared that Semenya “had more left in the tank.” His story quoted BBC commentator Kelly Holmes, who won this event in the 2004 Olympics, suggesting that Semenya hadn’t made her best effort: “She looked very strong, she didn’t look like she went up a gear, she wasn’t grimacing at all. I don’t know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn’t look affected.” Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden tweeted that Semenya “seemed oddly disengaged most of race and not tired at end.”
Semenya attempted to argue that she simply wasn’t feeling it and that her “body was not really on fire today,” but some are speculating otherwise. Even before the race, some were saying that she would be damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. If she were to win, she’d be accused of cheating. If she loses, she’d be accused of losing deliberately.
In 2009, Semenya got the attention of the global community when she improved her personal best by an unbelievable eight seconds.
“The combination of her stunning drop in time, her deep voice, and her armor-like torso elicited venom from some of her competitors,” wrote David Epstein from Sports Illustrated.
Neither the IAAF nor Semenya’s people have revealed the results of the gender test, but Sports Illustrated says the following: “the results … reportedly showed that while Semenya has external female genitalia, she has internal testes, no womb or ovaries and elevated levels of testosterone. This means that she has what doctors call a disorder of sexual development, and has some traits that are typically associated with women and others that are typically associated with men.”