South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam has dismissed growing perception that the continent has turned its back on Caster Semenya and the Olympic champion is battling the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on her own at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The silence has been deafening from the African countries who could be affected by the IAAF’s proposed rules changes and they have been accused of showing very little support to Semenya and the South African government when the hearings began in Switzerland this week.
But Sam said nothing could be further from the truth and insisted that the continent is behind her 800m Olympic and World Champion.
“Africa is behind us in this important matter and they have always been in the past‚” said Sam.
“It may not be in the media but I can assure everyone that Africa is behind us.
“It is not correct for people to comment that there is no support for Caster on the continent.
“We have assembled a team of experts in Lausanne to work with her in dealing with CAS and let’s allow them to do their job.”
But Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei did not want to comment on the matter when he was contacted by TimesLIVE on Wednesday despite the fact that their leading middle distance runner Margaret Wambui is directly affected by the proposed rules.
“The case has started at CAS and there will be no comment from me at this stage‚” said Tuwei.
Semenya went before CAS on Monday to challenge proposed IAAF rules that would force her to lower her testosterone levels.
The widely criticised rules would force “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to medically lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount.
The IAAF wants to introduce the rule changes to promote what it says will be fairer competition between all female athletes.
The other East African middle distance runner who could be affected is Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi but her athletics federation could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Attempts to get comment from president of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Hamad Kalkaba Malboum was also unsuccessful.
Though there is quiet diplomacy on the continent‚ there has been a groundswell of vocal support for Semenya from around the world.
The South African government is spending an estimated R25m in support of Semenya’s court challenge.
BY MAHLATSE MPHAHLELE