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Check on runner's gender angers supporters

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Check on runner's gender angers supporters

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Intersexuality has thrust its way to world attention with runner Caster Semenya. Her gold medal win in the 800 metre event in Berlin on Wednesday has the sporting body IAAF imposing gender-verification tests.

Family and friends in South Africa have not stopped celebrating the 18-year-old’s rapid accomplishment. But many of Semenya’s supporters are angry that she could be stripped of her gold based on the testing results. Her father conceded: “She is built exactly like me in structure.” But he resents what his daughter will be subjected to. “It’s an insult to me and our Sepedi culture. The way it’s being done I’m not happy with.” In the competition arena, a certificate that you were born a girl is not enough. Organs, hormones and chromosomes will be checked. A neighbour of Semenya voiced a common opinion: “There’s just jealousy ‘cause she’s winning.” A cousin said: “I think it’s all a lie. Caster’s a girl. I’m proud of her gender and I know she’s proud of her gender too.” The IAAF says: “It’s a medical issue.” It is actually an anatomy issue wrapped up with identity and even race issues, say experts and black South Africans. Semenya grew up taunted by boys and girls. More than her world championship is being put to the test now — also social attitudes about gender configurations and strength.