Gender questions surround African runner

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Audio Transcript:

KATY CLARK: There's no question that South African runner Caster Semenya is fast enough.

SOUND CLIP OF ANNOUNCER: Semenya is away and gone. Looks behind. Has got the gold medal sewn up in the bag.

CLARK: The question is whether Semenya is woman enough. Semenya easily won the 800-meters at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin Wednesday. Her time of one minute, 55-point-45 seconds put her more than two seconds ahead of the second place finisher. But now international track officials are investigating whether the 18-year-old athlete is indeed a woman. Farayi Mungazi has been following the controversy. He hosts the BBC African sports program, Fast Track and Farayi Mungazi is in London. Farayi first things first. How much faster in Semenya from the rest of her competitors?

FARAYI MUNGAZI: Oh she's very fast. I mean the way she won that 800-meters title on Wednesday was absolutely incredible. And this is someone, let's not forget, this is someone we hadn't heard of until about three, four weeks ago when she won the African junior title. And she's effectively come out of nowhere to the gold medal and the manner in which she won was absolutely dominating. And people said look if this is the way she runs at 18, heaven help the rest of her competitors when she really picks up into her twenties.

CLARK: Well now the president of South Africa Athletics or track and field in this country is saying that Semenya is being unfairly targeted because she's African and that the Europeans who are questioning her gender don't understand her physique. What does he mean by that?

MUNGAZI: It's not just the South Africans. We, on our own show here you know today we had views from all offer Africa � Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana. There is an overwhelming sense across the continent that Semenya is being treated like this simply because she's black and she's African. In fact, people are saying look there are other white athletes who are more muscular then Semenya but nothing is being said about them. So there is this sense of injustice that she's being unfairly singled out. And of course the South Africans have gone further to say that you know their athlete is being treated like a leper as if she's got some disease that is contagious. Her family has come out fighting in a corner. Her mother you know gave an interview to the BBC this morning saying that as far as she's concerned her girl is a woman and everybody else can get lost.

CLARK: I mean you watch a lot of runners all the time. When you watch a women's competition and a man's competition do you see a difference between a male runner and a female runner?

MUNGAZI: There is a big difference between the way females run and the way you know males run. Let me just put it this way, the first time I saw her run I didn't know who she was. And I was watching on television and I saw her run and I thought to myself, where is that boy from? She doesn't look like a woman. I have to be absolutely honest. That's my view. When you look at her first time, the way she runs and you know her strides, you know her posture, her body posture, there is nothing female about the way she runs. And also add to that she's got this deep, deep voice that if you were to listen to the voice without seeing her you'd think it's a man speaking. It's difficult for me to say that she is not a woman because as far as I'm concerned she just happens to look the way she looks and it's one of those things that people just have to live with.

CLARK: Well I understand that Semenya has passed tests for any kind of performance-enhancing drugs. Now she's facing some gender tests. Have those tests been conducted yet?

MUNGAZI: No and it is going to take a long time. It's not a simple issue because a lot of people are saying look what's the problem? Why doesn't she just drop her pants? And then everybody sees whether she's female or male. But it's more complicated then that. There's a whole host of experts to be consulted and IFF said that it's going to take weeks before the results are known and they haven't even started. Then there's another issue. The South Africans said today that they will not agree to any tests because as far as they're concerned she is a woman. Her grandmother was saying this morning that she's endured these taunts since she was a child. It's not something that has just come up in Berlin. She has grown up with it � people questioning whether she's a boy or a girl � and her family is quite angry about it. But I don't think that's going to break her down. I think it's making her even more determined I think.

CLARK: Farayi Mungazi is the host of the BBC African Sports program, Fast Track. Farayi thanks so much.

MUNGAZI: My pleasure.