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Gender-tested South African track star ready to return to competition

Photo by Schalk van Zuydam

Photo by Schalk van Zuydam

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa -- Caster Semenya is tired of waiting for track and field's ruling body to release results of her gender tests and plans to return to competition.

What's unclear is whether any meets will allow the world champion to run.

"I hereby publicly announce my return to athletics competitions," Semenya said in a statement on Tuesday shortly after a meet in South Africa denied the 19-year-old's request to run.

Semenya has not raced or spoken publicly since winning the women's 800 at the world championships in Berlin in August, when her dramatic improvement in times and muscular build led the International Association of Athletics Federations to order gender tests.

The IAAF is still reviewing the results to determine Semenya's eligibility. The organization has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports that the tests indicate Semenya has both male and female sex organs.

Semenya has not been banned or suspended, but said Tuesday she had grudgingly committed to wait while the IAAF determined its stance on her eligibility. Now, however, the process has gone on too long and Semenya said her career and livelihood were being impacted.

"I am an athlete first and foremost and it is vital for my competitiveness, my well being and for my preparations for events during the European summer that I measure my performance against other athletes," she said.

Earlier Tuesday, Semenya was denied a spot to race at a meet in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, despite pleas from her coach and lawyer to let her compete.

Semenya was at the meet in Stellenbosch, but refused to talk about her situation.

"Why would I want to talk to media," Semenya said. "I don't want to talk to you."

In the statement, Semenya said: "I have been subjected to unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being."

Semenya's lawyer later spoke to The Associated Press, however, saying there has been no agreement with the South African athletics federation for the runner to refrain from competing until the expected June release of her test results by the IAAF.

"We are not stopping her as lawyers," Greg Nott said. "I think she would love to (compete before June). That's for her to answer and her coach. She came ready to race tonight. This action today was about saying: 'It's time for the power to be given back to the athlete, which is Caster.'

"What we want is Athletics South Africa to come out in full support of the athlete, Caster. ... Somebody's got to give and we are pushing that."

Meet organizer Richard Stander said Semenya was "not comfortable with" the situation surrounding her eligibility.

"Caster said she was not happy. She wants to participate. She wants to perform," Stander said, adding that the South African athletics federation has a plan to bring her back to competition as soon as possible. "She is a performer. ... She doesn't have the opportunity to do that at the moment."

Semenya said her legal advisers had tried to contact the IAAF three times, but didn't get any response about when she could return to competition.

"My coach, agent and I will work closely together to identify and prepare for a limited number of athletics meetings over the course of the coming athletics season," the South African said.

Patrick Magyar, organizer of the Weltklasse meet in Zurich and vice chairman of the elite Diamond League circuit, said he expected organizers of the 14 events to follow the IAAF's lead.

"I don't think any of the meeting directors will take any decision outside of the IAAF," Magyar said. "We don't have clearance (to let Semenya run). There has not been any discussion on it so far."

Jos Hermens, the meet director for the Shanghai Grand Prix, said he could not say what his position on Semenya would be if she tried to enter that competition.

"For me it's not of any urgency and I don't want to make any decision on that," Hermens said. "I can only look at the human side that it's terrible that this is happening to her.

"Whatever the outcome, the only victim is her."

Stander said Semenya had not been invited to Tuesday's meet.

"The IAAF have got her under advisement from her medical team and until such a time as the IAAF tells us otherwise ... we cannot invite her," Stander said. "There are rules that we need to apply."

Semenya sat in the VIP section at Stellenbosch and watched the competition, marking her first public appearance since she returned home from the world championships.

"I am of the firm view that there is no impediment to me competing in athletics competitions," she said in the statement. "I will, however, continue to assist the IAAF with whatsoever they may require for their own processes and in this regard I have instructed my legal and medical team to work closely with, and continue negotiation with them for these purposes."