South African track star, Caster Semenya’s controversial reign of middle distance running may be cut short following the issue of new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification by world governing body, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
On Thursday, the IAAF published a statement on their website spelling out regulations for athletes who cover events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one mile races and combined events over the same distances (‘Restricted Events’). The IAAF announced a separate classification for athletes of Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) which will require those athletes to reduce their blood testosterone levels and maintain those levels if they want to compete internationally.
The new Regulations, approved by the IAAF Council in March, will come into effect from 1 November 2018 and replace the previous Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism. This comes on the back of a decade-long debate over the controversy sparked by Semenya, who is the most famous athlete suffering from Hyperandrogenism, also known as androgen excess. Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition characterized by excessive levels of androgens (male sex hormones such as testosterone) in the female body and the associated effects of the elevated androgen levels.
The new rules effectively mean that Semenya’s long and controversial reign as the queen of middle distance will come to an end, unless she takes medication to lower the androgens in her body. Semenya, double Olympic and triple world champion over 800m who completed the 800-1500 double at the Commonwealth Games this month, has always been a controversial figure in the sport as its authorities have sought a solution that respected her rights while also providing a “level playing field”.
Ever since she won the 800m title as an 18 year old in 2009, Semenya’s career has been dogged by controversies to do with her being hyperandrogenous. Some of her rivals have in fact had her rivals complaining that they faced an impossible and unfair challenge in her. The IAAF Council announced last month that following a review of available evidence it would revise its regulations, with the changes coming into force on Nov. 1.
According to the new rules DSD athletes will have to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 5nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months and must maintain those levels continuously for the rest of their athletic career. Female athletes who want to take part in international events but do not lower their testosterone levels will be allowed to compete against men.
South African Sports minister Tokozile Xasa has since labelled the new IAAF rules as ‘Caster Semenya regulations’. In a strong worded statement released following the official announcement by the IAAF, Xasa said her government would continue to engage with relevant bodies and utilise all available avenues to ensure that Semenya and other athletes likely to be affected by the regulations are allowed to participate unhindered by measures intended to reduce their competitive edge.
In the statement, IAAF president Sebastian Coe is quoted as saying: “As the International Federation for our sport we have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes. Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition – men’s events and women’s events. This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories.
Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes. The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD has cheated, they are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors.”
“The latest research we have undertaken, and data we have compiled, show that there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule,” Dr Stephane Bermon from the IAAF Medical and Science Department is also quoted as saying on the IAAF site.
The New Regulations
The new Regulations require any athlete who has a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) that means her levels of circulating testosterone (in serum) are five (5) nmol/L or above and who is androgen-sensitive to meet the following criteria to be eligible to compete in Restricted Events in an International Competition (or set a World Record in a Restricted Event at competition that is not an International Competition):
(a) she must be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent b) she must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives); and (c) thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (ie: whether she is in competition or out of competition) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.
Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.
The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.
As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.
Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.
Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.
However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.
Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.
When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.
The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”
Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.
This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.
He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.
When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”
Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.
In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.
Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.
Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.
Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.
The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.
These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership is devastated after Ineos Group Ltd, a British multinational chemicals company, somersaulted on their initial promise to build a multi-million Pula football academy and instead travelled up north to pitch camp in Ivory Coast.
This publication has learnt that Ineos Group which had signed contracts with the association was at a very advanced stage to erect a P120 million state-of-the-art academy in a plot located behind the national stadium in Gaborone.
According to close sources, Ineos however grew frustrated by Botswana’s lengthy and haphazard processes and procedures that led them nowhere and only served to waste more time. Ineos were reportedly irked by the delay and dumped BFA before the end of last year.
Things took a nasty twist in April of 2018 when Botswana leadership reshuffled the cabinet. Ministry of Sport faces therefore changed as Thapelo Olopeng was replaced by Tshekedi Khama.
It is said that under Olopeng, processes were fast tracked as the cabinet was briefed, and endorsed the development. Things started moving at a snail’s space after Khama took office. It emerges that the then Minister had to freeze every move after reports came thick and fast that some National Executive Committee members were almost secret shareholders of the academy.
The matter was so volatile that it reached the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) offices for further investigations.
While that seemingly turned off Ineos group, the straw that would broke the camel’s back was the realisation that some appointed architects had dragged the association to court for failing to adhere to agreed terms.
However, one high ranking BFA official said that indeed Ineos group has abandoned talks and have up and left.
“I do not want to dwell much on the story of corona virus effects, but what I can tell you is that there was a lot of petty talks surrounding this academy, and this was never going to take us anywhere. We were dealing with professionals and they are gone,” the NEC member said.
It was indicated that BFA was at a stage of re- engaging the British chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist, Sir James Ratcliffe to start pumping money into the project that was to run for a period of two years.
Ratcliffe had frequented the country on three occasions, precisely at Lekidi Football Centre, since MacLean Letshwiti assumed the BFA power seat in 2016.
The main reason for the visits, WeekendSport had learnt was to discuss setting up the academy as well as to assess the possible piece of land where the academy would be set up.
The state-of-the-art facility, according to the site layout included-among others-accommodation for up to 80 people; indoor training facility; fully equipped gym; Restaurant for both academy and public meals. High tech media conference centre that can seat 80, 3 x full size top of range FIFA approved turf fields, artificial turf 5-a-side fields, boardroom and office space and on site medical services (doctor and physiotherapists).
In addition, the project will help upgrade the netball facilities as well as install a multi-sport zone for public use.The facility was not only to be used for football but was to be a commercial structure which would be used to generate money to run itself.
BFA said the objectives of the academy was to provide young footballers from Botswana an opportunity to transform into better footballers at a world class facility in their home country.
Furthermore, it was to allow the best players to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland- a country that also houses the FIFA headquarters- to complete a further two years of academy training and education that will eventually avail them the opportunity to become professional footballers in Europe and elsewhere.
Botswana Olympic medallist, Nijel Amos has written to the Botswana National Sport Commission requesting permission to sell the silver medal he won at London 2012 Olympics.
BNSC is currently seized with the request and contemplating the best solution. According to sources at BNSC, the sports organisation is unwilling to give in to Amos’ demands of selling the medal as they believe it is a national treasure.
It is the first medal the country won at the Olympics- a major sports competition.”They have turned him down and are planning to find ways of assisting him as he said in the letter that he is selling the medal to raise money for his charity and also to raise money for himself,” said a source.
“They have been in contact with him to see how they can assist him in that regard and should he turn them down they plan to buy the medal from him and put it either at the museum or somewhere where people can come and see the medal just like in other countries.”
The 27 year-old 800 meter athlete clinched Botswana’s first ever and only Olympic medal at the Summer Olympics in 2012 held in London, United Kingdom.
Amos confirmed to this publication that he has written to BNSC but he is yet to receive feedback from them. “I have to get permission before selling it. I am now waiting for them to give me feedback. I cannot tell you why I want to sell the medal out of respect because the matter is still being discussed,” said Amos.
Acting BNSC Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho confirmed that they have received the letter and are still finding possible ways of dealing with the issue since it is the first of its kind.
“We have not yet finalised on how to best deal with the issue as you are aware it is a very delicate matter and needs serious attention. We will find the best way to solve it and we hope to soon meet with the athlete and engage him on how to deal with it,” said Serufho.
Botswana made her Olympic debut in 1980, Moscow, Russia and only managed to get a silver medal in 2012 through Marobela born Amos who was a teenager at the time.
Amos clocked 1:41:73 seconds, behind Kenya’s David Rudish. The time turned out to be a set-up of some fierce competition between the two athletes since then till to now.