"Is she man, is she lady?" was the question posed by Canadian 800m runner Diane Cummins after Semenya’s victory the other night, and AP sports columnist John Leicester has taken the Canadian to task for insensitivity. I think that John is missing the forest for the trees here.
Leicester blasts Cummins for making those comments, but then blasts that IAAF for not making a more transparent case to the competitor, which is rather like shifting the blame. Given that the IAAF and WADA have had a terrible time when it comes to policing the use of performance enhancing drugs over the last 20 years, it can’t come as a terrible shock when a competitor, in this case Diane Cummins, gets exasperated with what appears to be yet another case of the competition field not being level at all.
Semenya’s recent 800 meters, while not spectacular on paper, was a thing to watch on video. It is likely that you’ve almost never seen anyone run a world leading time with such ease, toy with her world class competitors, all while admitting that she’s not doing speedwork and hasn’t gotten the rust off.
You have to think that, maybe, what is needed is not telling Diane to shut up, in the same way as censoring Paula Radcliffe’s “EPO cheats out” sign during the 3000K in the 2003 World Championships, but is considering that what is good for Semenya may not be good for the needs of the sport. The IAAF being more transparent here would do little to make the playing field level, but it would go a little way towards explaining as to why Semenya is able to be that good, and make it look that easy.
That will do little to pacify Cummins or any of the other female competitors who are going to get their clocks cleaned as easily as the the western women were during the East German/Russian drug oriented domination of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. Its not good for the sport, its not good television, its not good PR frankly. Cummins was saying what all the rest of us will be saying over the next few years, and then its going to be a lot harder for all the rest of the athletes to keep quiet or to accuse them of ignorance.
We can get mad at the IAAF and their decision to allow Semenya to compete, which is likely going to make a mockery of the event for the next couple years, but not at the athletes who will be running up against that wall for quite some time.