20 Sep 2009

South Africa wants athletics chief 'fired'

10:05 pm on 20 September 2009

South Africa's sports ministry has demanded that the country's athletics authority, the ASA, sack its president, Leonard Chuene, for lying about gender tests carried out on the teenage gold-medallist, Caster Semenya.

Mr Chuene has admitted lying about the tests and ignoring medical advice that Semenya be withdrawn from the world athletics championships in Berlin.

In a statement, Deputy Minister of Sport Gert Oosthuizen demanded Athletics South Africa "fire" Leonard Chuene.

"If they fail to do so, they run the risk of being led by a liar," he said.

The statement added his ministry had been shocked when Mr Chuene admitted lying about his knowledge of tests conducted on Semenya ahead of the athletics World Championships in Berlin last month.

The tests on Caster Semenya were carried out in South Africa in August but Mr Chuene said he wanted to protect Semenya's privacy.

Mr Chuene said he felt he was acting in her "best interests."

But a statement issued by Mr Oosthuizen said Mr Chuene's lies "have fuelled the continuous violation of Ms Semenya's rights and dignity."

The statement said "we do not agree with Mr Chuene's insistence that he lied in Ms Semenya's interest, in fact we are of the view that his lies were to Ms Semenya's detriment".

Semenya has been the focus of attention since she won the 800m world title last month and the sport's governing body, the IAAF, ordered fresh gender tests.

Mr Chuene now says he has realised his previous consistent denials were "an error of judgment" and that he "could have been more forthcoming with this information", even if it was difficult.

The BBC reports that it looks likely that whatever the results of the gender tests Caster Semenya will be able to keep her gold medal, but that Leonard Chuene faces an uphill struggle to hold onto his job.