South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) congratulates 800 metres world champion Caster Semenya at the presidential guest house in Pretoria August 25 ,2009. Semenya, whose victory has been overshadowed by a gender testing row, returned home to a heroine's welcome on Tuesday. Furious South Africans have accused the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of everything from racism to imperialism for ordering the test after her rapid improvement over the last year raised its suspicions. [Xinhua/Reuters]
Rumors that gold medallist Caster Semenya is not a woman are wrong and ill-spirited, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
Briefing journalists in Pretoria after meeting "golden girl" Semenya and her fellow medal-winning athletes Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Khotso Mokoena, Zuma said Semenya showcased women's achievements, power and strength.
"Miss Semenya had also reminded the world of the importance of the right to human dignity and privacy which should be enjoyed by all human beings," he said.
In recognition of the supremacy of these rights, the government wished to register its displeasure at the manner in which Semenya was treated.
Zuma said Sport and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile had written to the International Association of Athletics Federations, which decided that Semenya should undergo gender testing.
South African athletes Khotso Mokoena (L), Caster Semenya (2nd L) and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (R) show off their medals to President Jacob Zuma at the presidential guest house in Pretoria August 25, 2009. [Xinhua/Reuters]
He said the ministry would follow up on the matter.
"It is one thing to seek to ascertain whether or not an athlete has an unfair advantage over others, but it is another to publicly humiliate an honest, professional and competent athlete." he said,
Zuma said the rumors about her being a man were "wrong" and dampened the spirit of the young people.
"It was started deliberately to cause a kind of confusion and dampen the spirits of the country unnecessarily," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 26, 2009)