JOHANNESBURG — Caster Semenya’s lawyers say they are still working with international track officials to settle the future of the 800-meter world champion, contradicting comments made earlier Wednesday by her coach.
Michael Seme, Semenya’s coach, told The Associated Press that he had learned from the runner’s lawyers that she can compete internationally despite her gender-test controversy. But Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm spokesman Angelo Kakolyris says that is not the case.
“All the parties are still in negotiations,” Kakolyris said. “We’re optimistic that there’s going to be a positive resolution for all parties concerned.”
Seme later backed off his earlier statements, saying: “Just listen to the lawyers.”
Semenya won the women’s 800 at the world championships in Berlin in August. The International Association of Athletics Federations said hours before the race that it ordered gender tests to be conducted because of her muscular build and rapid improvement in times, and her future as a runner has been in doubt since.
Semenya, who turned 19 last week, has never been officially suspended by the IAAF, pending results of the gender tests.
“We are still in the same position as before — no official IAAF comment until we have finished the inquiry — and I can’t tell you how long the inquiry will take either,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said Wednesday.
Semenya was also tested in South Africa before the world championships. In September, Australian newspapers reported that Semenya has male and female sexual organs, but the IAAF has refused to confirm or deny those claims.
Semenya, who comes from a poor village in rural South Africa, first drew attention when she won the 800 title at the African junior championships last year, shaving more than eight seconds off her winning time from the Commonwealth Youth Games the previous year.
Semenya easily won the 800 world title in Berlin, beating the field by a large margin in a season’s best 1 minute, 55.45 seconds.
In November, the South African sports ministry said Semenya would be able to keep her gold medal from the worlds.
Besides the international intrigue created by the gender test, the case also entangled the president of the South African athletics federation, Leonard Chuene. In September, Chuene admitted he lied about his knowledge of gender tests performed on Semenya in South Africa before the world championships. He has since been suspended.
The International Olympic Committee is organizing a medical symposium in Miami Beach, Florida, next week to draw up guidelines for dealing with “ambiguous” gender cases in sports in the wake of the Semenya controversy.