- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The only thing you can say about Caster Semenya with absolute certainty is that anywhere the 18-year-old South African running sensation goes, it will be a media circus.

Reports already are coming out of Australia and England about the investigation by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) into Semenya’s gender eligibility. The IAAF expects it to be concluded in November, but who wants to wait?

Which male or female sexual organs Semenya has or does not have aren’t of any interest to me. But testosterone levels are, and the reports are that Semenya has three times the normal testosterone levels of the average woman.

According to IAAF regulations, female athletes “should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male.”

This wouldn’t even be an issue had Semenya not crashed the international running scene with a dominating 1:55.45 at the world championships in Berlin last month. The world record is 1:53.28.

This case is reminiscent of that of Mary Decker Slaney in the late 1990s, although nobody ever doubted Slaney’s gender. But Slaney, who once held every U.S. women’s outdoor record from the 800 through the 10,000, tested off the chart during the 1996 U.S. Olympic trials in Atlanta. She had a testosterone-epitestosterone level higher than the 6-1 ratio that international rules allowed.

The IAAF set its rules for a ratio of 1-to-1 for men and women, with a limit of 6-to-1 to account for natural variations. Slaney sued the IAAF, contending that the test was not valid for women, especially in their late 30s and 40s and on birth-control pills.

The reason testosterone is such an explosive issue is because it helps build muscle mass and allows an athlete to train harder and longer. The IAAF routinely busts athletes for taking artificial testosterone to boost their levels.

The IAAF’s preliminary position is that Semenya probably would keep her medal because the IAAF does not believe she was doping. Whatever the outcome of the Semenya case, the IAAF needs to revisit its rules on the issue of natural testosterone. At this point, the IAAF has no grounds to disqualify her.

Boston opens - Online entry for the 114th Boston Marathon on April 19, 2010, began on Sept. 9. The 2009 Boston Marathon reached its limit in late January, and the 25,000 slots for 2010 also are expected to fill quickly. But it always is interesting that race officials do accept more than the stated limit in anticipation of no-shows.

New York bound - The 29th running of the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sept. 26 will include a deep elite field of 15 Olympians, including defending champion Lisa Dobriskey along with Bernard Lagat and Shannon Rowbury.

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