Jacques Rogge wades into the Caster Semenya row

•Case could have been handled more discreetly, says IOC
• South African sports minister threatens 'third world war'

Pressure on the International Association of Athletics Federations over its handling of the gender tests that will decide the fate of the South African runner Caster Semenya increased yesterday after the president of the International Olympic Committee weighed into the debate.

In the wake of unconfirmed leaks to the Australian press about the test results, the South African government renewed its attack on the handling of the process since the IAAF made its concerns public in the wake of her 800m victory at last month's Berlin World Championships .

"This is something that touches the very soul of the individual," said the IOC president Jacques Rogge in an interview given before the latest wave of reports in the Australian press. "The psychological but also social consequences are really tremendous. This is something that preferably should be handled discreetly if you have the time to do that."

The IOC president, who said it was down to the IAAF to decide whether she could compete, added: "Ideally, and this is not a criticism to anyone, such a case would be dealt with in anonymity as much as possible. But I understand this is a process that was done over a very short period."

In an effort to quell the growing tide of speculation, the IAAF said yesterday that it would make no further comment on the case until the next meeting of its council on 21 November.

"We can officially confirm that gender verification test results will be examined by a group of medical experts," read a statement. "No decision on the case will be communicated until the IAAF has had the opportunity to complete this examination."

Australian press reports yesterday said the tests indicated that Semenya has no ovaries, but rather has internal male testes, producing large amounts of testosterone. There was no suggestion that the athlete or South African officials knew of her condition, the reports said.

The IAAF's president, Lamine Diack, revealed earlier this week in a letter to South Africa's sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile that it was conducting an inquiry into the leaks that have fanned the flames of outraged political and public opinion in Semanya's home country.

Stofile yesterday renewed his attack on the IAAF, branding its treatment of the athlete "disgusting" and claiming that "the third world war" would follow if she were banned from competition.

The 18-year-old at the centre of the controversy pulled out of her planned return to action at today's national cross country championships in Pretoria because, her coach Michael Seme said, she was "not feeling well".

The National Assembly sports committee chairman Butana Komphela said parliamentary officials would insist the government helped Semenya take legal action against the organisation.

But sports lawyers said that it would be difficult for the South African authorities to mount a case against the IAAF. "There is a general duty of care from a governing body or international federation to the athletes they represent. She could argue that they have broken that duty of care," said Mike Morgan, a solicitor in the sports law practice at Hammonds. "But you're talking about a South African athlete, an organisation based in Monaco and leaks that occurred in Berlin and Australia. Once the dust has settled, I think they will realise it would be difficult to bring a case."

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Owen Gibson

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