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Caster-Gate: the real Villains

by Carlos Amato / 25.08.2009

So Butana Komphela reckons Caster Semenya is “the new Saartjie Baartman”. The comparison is an insult to both women. It trivialises Baartman’s story, and cynically sensationalises Semenya’s.
Baartman was a slave, lured across the ocean and humiliated until her death at 25 by the grotesque pseudoscientific racism and sexism of early 19th-century Europe.

Semenya’s humiliation is not remotely comparable — and in any case, Europeans are not to blame for it. The IAAF had no choice in the end but to require gender tests (though they should have ensured their intentions were not leaked to the media). She does have a freakishly masculine physique, especially for one so young, and it’s their duty to ensure fair competition. End of story.

The true culprits are the bungling sinecurists of Athletics South Africa, who blithely despatched an 18-year-old rural girl to inevitable glory and inevitable shame. In the absence of responsible foresight on the part of ASA, Caster’s humiliation was always going to happen. An athletics writer at the newspaper I work for predicted it a month ago.

If ASA boss Leonard Chuene and his executives really cared about Semenya’s dignity, they would long ago have quietly satisfied the IAAF that she is a legitimate competitor – by documenting the previous gender tests she has passed, and, if necessary, arranging for a discreet IAAF test. They did not do so.

Then they spurned a second chance to protect her.

Ten days ago, the IAAF instructed its Africa medical representative Harold Adams, who is also the South African team’s doctor in Berlin, to ask Chuene to withdraw Semenya from the Berlin championships.
If Chuene had complied, tests could have been conducted quietly, the media could have been honestly and tactfully briefed, and Semenya would have been back on the track within weeks. She’s young. A decade of medals awaits her.

But Chuene, with his customary pomposity, refused to withdraw Semenya because the IAAF had broken protocol by not contacting ASA bosses directly.

Now the high horses are galloping. Sanctimony is an old camouflage for official fuckwittedness. Chuene has resigned from the IAAF council in a hypocritical huff. Komphela, Julius Malema, the DA’s Wilmot James and the once-impressive Patricia de Lille have emitted a volley of cheap, lazy race rhetoric that serves only to debase real analysis of real racism.
“Just because she is black and she surpassed her European competitors, there is all this uproar,” said Komphela.

Oh, please. Has Komphela watched any track athletics during the last four decades? Tell that theory to the ghost of Jesse Owens, who conquered Berlin in 1936 under Hitler’s twitching snor. That war has been won; Komphela insults black heroes of old by implying that their profound victories never happened.

The IAAF is not examining Usain Bolt or Mbulaeni Mulaudzi’s chromosomes – because they don’t look or speak like women.

In their puny way, blowhards like Chuene and Komphela weaken Africa’s pursuit of dignity by spouting their embarrassing, paranoid, opportunistic bullshit. Let’s fight battles that actually exist. And let’s look after our children, Semenya included.

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  1. Travis Lyle says:

    “Sanctimony is an old camouflage for official fuckwittedness.”

    True, that.

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  2. dylan says:

    A black dude shows up at an exclusive gentleman’s club and the guy at the door tells him, ‘Sorry, but we don’t allow your kind in here, there’s a more liberal club ten minutes away from here.’ Guy says, ‘But I’m Usain Bolt?’ To which the doorman replies, ‘Okay, five minutes then…’

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  3. Mandla says:

    Man i feel like i`m reading a letter from a friend. So much facts logic and freedom in this article.

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  4. Karen Lotter says:

    I agree with you. The culprits are athletics South Africa and her coach – how the hell did they think they were going to get away with it? Athletics at that level is a multi $$$ industry and everyone knows the 800m is one of the most difficult and technical races – so when a kid comes out of almost nowhere and blows it apart – people will be suspicious – they have a right to be – there is so much money invested in athletics.

    The race thing is ridiculous and I’m embarrassed that South Africans have behaved like ignorant “folks back home” in a way it is heart warming, but with the 2010 World Cup ahead and talking about excellence and professionalism ,it is very embarrassing.

    The reaction. would have been exactly the same if the athlete was white and has come from Croatia.

    I feel very sorry for Caster and her family. I believe she has some kind of hermaphrodism – even if it isn’t visible on the outside. The truth and adjustment is going to be really hard

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  5. bubba Hotep says:

    ‘…a freakishly masculine physique’. Whoa, Carlos! To amble down that road , that ‘seeing is believing’, implicitly sanctions a whole host of questionable on-the-spot assumptions based on visual evidence: racial profiling, the conceit that beautiful people are inherently refined, that only men have muscles and armpit hair. The ‘gross psuedoscientific racism & sexism’ of 19th Century Europe had a lot to do with blunt empiricism – drawing conclusions based on observation, the myth that looking is knowing. A mistake you’ve simply repeated.

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  6. Carlos Amato says:

    @Bubba Hotep
    Sorry, but professional sport does not follow the analytical protocols of gender studies, nor should it. Short of testing the sex of every athlete (an absurd proposition), the IAAF have to make “questionable” assumptions on surface evidence, then test them. Yes, “blunt empiricism” must be sharpened up in the lab, but you have to start somewhere. Otherwise men would be win women’s medals all the time.

    “Freakishly masculine physique” … maybe too strong a phrase, but I’m just using honest language in a debate that’s current awash with phony pieties.

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  7. Cold Fact says:

    A really objective and therefore enjoyable piece of writing. I very much doubt finding something with similar sentiments in any of our national rags.

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  8. craigieji says:

    well written.
    fuck this racism claim bullshit.

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  9. craigieji says:

    its a pity about the subtle racism in so many other places that prob accounts for people needing something to over-react to, something overt. i’ve been hearing about some subtle and not so subtle racism vibes in Cape town.

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  10. snapper says:

    she’s pulled down her pants for enough people to see.
    so what, she might have some difference chromosones / hormones to some of her competitors. Ian Thorpe has bigger feet – lets disqualify him!
    Good for her for making whatever nature gave her work for her.

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  11. JD says:

    Finally some common sense!

    Proactive = good.
    Reactive = idiotic.

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  12. bee says:

    Brlliant and refreshing, Carlos. Thanks!

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  13. MasterG says:

    Just an FYI, the IAAF didn’t order the gender tests solely on the basis of physical appearance. Semanya had high level s of the male hormone testosterone.

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  14. MasterG says:

    Just an FYI, the IAAF didn’t order the gender tests solely on the basis of physical appearance. Semanya had high level s of the male hormone testosterone.


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  15. snapper says:

    she was shown to have 3 times the average testosterone for a women. men have approx 7 times the amount of the average woman.

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  16. annonymous says:

    it’s nice to live in this world of yours ne? where blacks walk around with state-issued race cards in their wallets, ready to be brandished on any whim, to further their cause as the ultimate victims. conjecture (one informed by history): the thing is chief, as they say, if caster was a little white girl from Bristol, UK this whole matter would’ve been dealt with far greater regard for her dignity and her privacy. fact is there have been more that 650 gender tests conducted by the atheltics body and the ioc since the mid nineties, none of them have, i repeat none of them, have been dealt with such absolute disregard for the testee chikita’s sensibilities. she could have a beard and six toes, she could look like a duud in most possible ways, as you keep reminding us in your article, but the decision to test, the tests themselves dr amato, would have to follow certain protocals which give firm direction on how to sensitively handle this matter. but then again, she is just another “18-yr-old rural girl”

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  17. Carol Reed says:

    Man, I thought the above comment was pro the article, and then con and then pro and then con. Can’t you keep it to one thought, I’m not very clever.

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  18. Intebe says:

    It is a shame for a writer to write such things as if Semenya planned this all thing up. It up to Afrikans an other nations to step up and let Europeans know that they can no longer use science to hold people down.

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  19. pauly says:

    Well done Carlos. Dont let go

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  20. Mandla says:

    Lots of people are using Lady C to push their own agendas.

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  21. Jon says:

    Intebe, this one’s for you buddy, open the link below…

    (P.S. Are you sure that your name isn’t Rakim?)

    see more Fail Blog

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  22. Jon says:

    Damn, that link didn’t work, let’s see if this one does… http://failblog.org/2009/08/12/racism-fail/“><img src=”http://failblog.wordpress.com/files/2009/08/fail-owned-racism-fail.jpg

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  23. Themba says:

    Ouch!!! That hurt.

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  24. ohwell... says:

    Whoa. do you base your assumption that the asa was wrong on all the hogwash you wrote above? I beg to differ. Have any tests ever been run on Maria Mutombo who looks more mannish than Caster? Why withdraw her from the meets if they had every reason to believe that she is who she says she is? Isn’t that guilt before trial even starts? Haysuka Carlos, go buy yoself a bag of marbles….

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  25. Daniel says:

    Thanks for this sane, intelligent, well-written response. Look forward to reading more from you.

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  26. ICEDOCTOR says:

    No offence but….is that a bulge or what? Im sure there would be some dudes who’d be happy packin like that!

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  27. www.mahala.co.za says:

    Caster gat.. Nice 🙂

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