Caster Semenya the true champ?

2015-11-15 16:20

SA 800m champion Caster Semenya will have to wait a little longer to find outwhether her silver medals from the 2012 Olympics and 2011 World Championships will be upgraded to gold – and if she can possibly recoup some of the money she lost in potential earnings from the two major events.

This after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council handed the All-Russia Athletics Federation (Araf) a provisional ban from athletics on Friday following a a damning World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report based on details of systematic doping and a state-sanctioned cover-up by the country.

The report – by former Wada president Dick Pound – named Semenya’s 800m rivals Mariya Savinova (30) and Ekaterina Poistogova (24) among the doping offenders.

Finishing second to Savinova at the 2012 Olympics and 2011 IAAF World Championships in effect means Semenya may have been robbed of hundreds of thousands of rands in potential earnings from the two competitions.

The Daegu, South Korea, world champs gold medal was worth $60 000 (R433 000 using the exchange rate at the time, but R863 000 at today’s rate) while the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) rewarded Team SA London Olympic champions with a R400 000 bonus (see box).

Semenya said: “I have no business with the decision of the IAAF [to provisionally ban Russia]. It’s all in the past and history will always say I came second at the worlds and the Olympics.”

Her coach, Jean Verster, told City Press yesterday: “Something that happened in the past is not in our minds because our focus is on the Rio Olympics, where we are hoping for a much cleaner competition. In my opinion, it was a great move by the IAAF – they made up for turning a blind eye [on doping violations].”

The Russian suspension takes effect immediately, meaning athletes won’t compete in any international events until the IAAF is satisfied the country has cleaned up its act.

During the period in question, where Savinova is suspected of having used performance-enhancing substances, the Russian also beat Semenya in the lucrative Diamond League (see box).

Ironically, the former European champion was reported to have been one of the athletes who took exception to Semenya when the then 18-year-old Limpopo-born runner won the 2009 World Championships in Germany.

Savinova finished a distant fifth at the Berlin championships that announced Semenya to the world. Her victory was overshadowed by a gender-verification row that had Semenya making international headlines.

Savinova reportedly commented in reaction to her defeat in the final: “Just look at her [Semenya]”.

Future 800m international meetings turned into a Semenya-versus-Savinova battle, with the Russian proving a dominant force right up to the London Olympics.

It has now ended in shame for Savinova and her compatriots. If their suspension is upheld, it will result in the imposition of a number of conditions with which the Russians must comply before they will be allowed back to international competition.

The decision on Friday means the country is barred from competing in next month’s European Cross Country Championships in France and it could also rule them out of the World Indoor Championships in Portland, US, in March. Russia will also be banned from hosting next year’s World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary and the 2016 World Junior Championships in Kazan.

The focus is now on whether the Russian team will be readmitted in time for the Rio Olympics, where Savinova was expected to defend her title.

There could also be a reallocation of medals from major competitions in the 800m between 2011 and 2012.

Such a move will see Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei, who finished third in Daegu, being upgraded to silver, while Alysia Montaño of the US will move from fourth place to get bronze.

Montaño will also get an Olympic 800m medal, despite finishing fifth – because Poistogova will also have her bronze withdrawn, elevating Pamela Jelimo of Kenya to silver, behind Semenya.

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March 29 2020