IAAF president visits Bots amid gender rule storm

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By Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone - International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president, Sebastian Coe arrives in Gaborone on Saturday for a two-day visit, amid lingering questions on the controversial gender testing rule.

Coe avoided visiting South Africa, where the IAAF has been in the eye of the storm, after first, subjecting 800m world champion, Caster Semenya, to a gender test, and again introducing a female classification rule, which is viewed as discriminatory.

The rule was introduced in April this year, targeting athletes with differences of sexual development, but it was roundly criticised. Semenya has since taken the IAAF to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Zurich, with the intention to stop its implementation.

If the rule is implemented, it would mean Semenya, and other female athletes with differences of sexual development, have to take medication to lower higher than normal levels of naturally produced testosterone. IAAF argues that the condition gives such athletes unfair advantage.

Coe will face testing questions over the introduction of the rule when he touches down in Gaborone on Saturday.

His visit is to tour local athletics body, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA)’s facilities.

But women rights bodies, such as the local chapter of the International Working Group (IWG) on women in sports, want explanations regarding the gender rule.

The IWG has already written a petition to IAAF, opposing the introduction of the rule.

Botswana IWG board member, Game Mothibi told the local media that they are keen to meet Cole over the issue.

“We feel the rule is discriminatory and it talks to women in sport. Why can’t tests be done on all other advantages not only testosterone? We hosted Caster Semenya here this year, and she knows that she has our support.

“We also hope to hear the voice of Botswana Athletics Association on the matter. I want Coe to be aware of our stand as a continent. We want him to be aware of our petition. He is the right person to hear us,” Mothibi said.

South African Women and Sport Foundation chairperson, Ntambi Ravele, who is also a member of the Women Sport Africa Network, said Coe had deliberately avoided visiting South Africa as “he is aware of the strong opposition on the matter”.

“He is aware that the government, civil society and media are up in arms about IAAF’s intentions,” Ravele said.

The rule was supposed to kick-in on November 1, but Semenya’s court challenge means implementation would be delayed pending the outcome in Zurich.

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