By Duncan Mackay

September 1 - There has been a new twist in the gender row involving South Africa's world 800 metres Caster Semenya after a civil rights group claimed that Athletics South Africa (ASA) should be sanctioned because Leonard Chuene, its President, has tried to turn the affair into a racial issue.

AfriForum, a civil rights Non-Government Orgainsation in South Africa, have written to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) claiming that Chuene has broken the Olympic Charter (IOC) by regularly claiming that Semenya is being discriminated against because she is black. 

A letter sent to Pierre Weiss, the General Secretary of the IAAF, by Kallie Kriel, the chief executive of AfriForum, and seen by insidethegames, claims that Chuene has allowed the scandal to be hijacked by politicians and is causing racial tension in South Africa.

Kriel wrote: "Ms Semenya's achievements provided an ideal opportunity for the promotion of mutual recognition and respect amongst communities in South Africa, however the disclosure of the information, as well as the manner in which Mr Chuene and South African politicians handled the situation, has now incited racial polarisation both internationally and within South Africa.  

"The fact that the excellent feat of a South African athlete is exploited for political gains and to promote division, is a sad turn of events that contravenes the ethical values of Athletics."

Semenya has become known around the world after the IAAF revealed on the eve of the 800m final in Berlin last month that they were conducting gender tests on her to see whether she was eligible to compete a a woman.

The row led to Chuene resigning as member of the IAAF's ruling Council amid claims that if Semenya had been a "white European" she would not have been treated in the same way.

When Semenya returned home she was met by thousands of well-wishers at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, including Winnie Mandela, the former wife of South African President Nelson Mandela, and several other leading members of the African National Congress (ANC).

Semenya has also met Mandela and Jacob Zuma, South Africa's current President (pictured), who have both offered her their support.

AfriForum,  an independant initiative of the trade union Solidarity, have claimed that this is politicial interference and that the IAAF and IOC should both take action.

Both organisations have recently threatened to suspend member federations because of politicial interference.

Kriel wrote: "The Olympic Charter also stipulates in Article 2 (10) that the role of the IOC is 'to appose any political ... abuse of sport and athletes'.  

"This is precisely what Mr Chuene and South African politicians have done.
"To make matters worse, the ASA held a media conference at the time of Ms Semenya's return to South Africa, which was used to provide a platform for politicians of a political party, namely the ANC, to exploit Ms Semenya and Athletics for political purposes.  

"During this event, the ANC Youth League's President, Mr Julius Malema, and an ANC Member of Parliament, Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, also made polarising statements.
"A Minister in the South African Government, Ms Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, also yelled at the crowd from the podium during Ms Semenya's arrival in South Africa: 'Down with the IAAF'.
"The IAAF stipulates constitutionally in Aticle 3 (5) that this organisation has to apply the rules of Athletics.  

"Mr Chuene brought the rules of Athletic into disrepute by questioning the IAAF's tests.  

"This questioning not only undermines the credibility of the rules of the IAAF, but undermines the authority of the IAAF itself.  

"In order to ensure future respect for the rules of the IAAF, the undermining thereof cannot be tolerated.

"The individual who has suffered most as a result of this debacle, is Ms Caster Semenya.  

"What should have been a moment of glory for her, has now turned into a fiasco which has violated her privacy and her human dignity."  
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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