In 2011, the world of athletics thought it had answered these questions when the International Association for Athletics Federations (IAAF) issued regulations that stipulated female athletes with excessive testosterone should take drugs to lower their levels to a female range or stop competing.
The measures were brought about largely in response to Semenya, whose utter domination of the 800m at the 2009 World Championships caused her right to compete to be reviewed. What followed that competition had been a farce, in which Semenya was subjected to medical examinations, the results of which were leaked to the Press — which is why we know about her internal testes.
South African politicians said they were ‘appalled’ by how sporting authorities had handled the young athlete from a poor village in the north of the country. In the aftermath, she was given an awkward makeover by a magazine that boasted it had turned ‘SA’s power girl into a glamour girl — and she loves it!’, as she posed in jewellery, make-up and a dress.
Freed from having to reduce her testosterone, Semenya is back at the top of her game. In Monaco last month, she posted a new personal best of one minute 55.33 seconds, which makes her the 11th fastest woman ever to run the 800m. In her personal life, she appears to have found happiness, studying for a sports science degree and marrying her long-term girlfriend.
She is understandably reluctant to be drawn into the furore around her gender. ‘I don’t have time for that,’ she said in June. ‘I am an athlete and I focus more on the issues that concern me: training, perform, eat, sleep