The new announcement by the International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF) to ban female athletes who have a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) or naturally high natural testosterone levels from competing in events such as the 400m, hurdles, 800m and 1500m has sent shockwaves through the international track and field community. The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), who affiliate to the IAAF are unlikely to be spared.
News about the new IAAF ruling broke last week and since then, stakeholders have been pointing fingers at the IAAF leadership and accusing it of discrimination and wanting to eliminate or slow down the performance of certain athletes. So dire is the situation that one reputable sports lawyer from South Africa recently resigned from the IAAF committee over allegations that the law was deliberately attacking one of their own, being elite middle-distance runner Caster Semenya.
According to a report from IAAF, the new regulation is meant to create an even playing field for all female athletes. Any athlete whose testosterone level is above the ‘normal’ level of 5 nmol/L should reduce their blood testosterone level for a continuous period of at least six months possibly through the use of hormonal contraceptives. According to the IAAF press document, the concerned athletes are seen as having an unfair advantage over those referred to as average women. However, athletes who do not wish to lower their testosterone levels will still be eligible to compete at competitions that are not international but can also compete in the male classification at all competitions.
In an interview with BG Sport this week, the president of the Confederation of Athletics Africa (CAA) also former Botswana Athletics Association(BAA) Moses Bantsi said they are baffled by the new developments. He said as Southern Africa they feel the new law is questionable to some extent and it is not wrong to conclude that as suspected certain individuals might be targeted.
As CAA, Bantsi said they are very blunt with their take on the matter and still pounding on the matter. “It is a violation of human rights because those athletes were not self made but naturally born that way. IAAF tried to bring about this law about four years back, now it has resurfaced again, we will see how best to deal with it,” Bantsi said.
Bantsi questioned the reason behind IAAF discriminating events, “Why are they banned from middle distance events not the other 44 track and field events. This raises a lot of eyebrows on our part,” he said.
The rule he said is most likely to be expensive for BAA because they will be forced to buy equipment that will be used to test the level of testosterone in athletes. In his opinion, the equipment might not come cheap and also this might have a negative implication on some local athletes.
For his part, BAA president Thari Mooketsi, said there is nothing wrong with the new law, in fact he feels it is a move in the right direction. Mooketsi said it is not fair that an athlete should have an added advantage over others when competing saying the results will not be fair.
“As much as we want to celebrate good results they should be fair, we are not discriminating anybody because we have categories in athletics and that is why we have people living with disabilities racing alone,” Mooketsi said.
Mooketsi said the only unfortunate part about it is that athletes with high testosterone levels will not be able to compete because there are a limited number of them. Commenting on the matter, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said as BNOC they are yet to find a stand on the matter, however in his opinion the matter is a bit tricky to handle.
Serufho said it should be noted that the athletes did not dope or have done anything to enhance their performance but were born like that so it might be unfair on them. On the other hand, Serufho felt that it was still unfair on those women who are considered to be average. “It is a delicate issue and needs delicate balancing.”
One controversial gender debacle that once hit local athletics was that of former Paralympic sprinter Tshotego Morama. After making being established as a star runner Morama faded from the athletics scene some years back. Reasons for cutting his career short are still unknown, however some allege that it was because of his gender struggle, after being viewed be a man competing with female athletes. Morama who now identifies himself as a man won gold at the 2004 summer Paralympics; in 2007 he scooped gold at the all Africa games. The President Paralympics Association of Botswana of David Moatshe said he could not discuss Morama’s case and why he decided to stay away from running, however going into the future, the IAAF new law is most likely to disadvantage and kill careers.
“We do not choose how we are born and for this to happen to any athlete might be discouraging to them,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sports View Runners Club founder Glody Dube said people should relax because the IAAF has a point in bringing the new law. Dube said it is only fair that people compete fairly and those who have added advantage should compete alone. The former 800m runner said it is not like they are being banned from running and there is no need to be press panic buttons. As a coach to some elite athletes in Botswana, Dube said should IAAF find that some local runners have high levels of testosterone in their body he will not mind if they are banned.
Dube said people are usually reluctant to change and with time there might be change of mindset because people are usually slow to react to such matters.
Local track and field fans will have to wait until the end of the month to see Amantle Montsho compete at the Diamond League. Montsho dominated at the recently held Gaborone International Meet, this past weekend.
The former 400m world champion reclaimed her crown when she won gold at the 2018 Gold Coast, Australia Commonwealth Games. However, it was at the Diamond league where Montsho dominated with ease before a gut-wrenching doping scandal stalled her career during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. However, fans of the Diamond League will be waiting with bated breath to see the former queen of 400m return to the tracks. Both the Doha Diamond League event this weekend and the Shanghai race do not feature women’s 400m.
This means Montsho is likely to return at the Eugene, USA race where women’s 400m is feature. Montsho blitzed the 400m race when she recorded ‘50.15 sec at the Commonwealth Games and got the attention of her 400m rivals once again. In an interview this week, former 400m runner and founder of Sports View Runners club said Montsho is once again the best 400m women’s runner in the world following her victory in Australia. Dube said he is confident that Montsho will be invited back to the lucrative Diamond League.
In other matters, Dube said Montsho does not need a manager to compete at the Diamond League as she can be invited as an individual runner. Dube said he is a registered manager with the IAAF and he is able to enter the runner. In an earlier interview Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) president said Montsho needed a manager in order to compete at the Diamond League. Meanwhile, 400m sprinter and 2018 Commonwealth Games champion Isaac Makwala and Baboloki Thebe have been entered in the Doha race this Friday.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Football Association (BFA) Mfolo Mfolo this week expressed confidence that the national stadium will be ready for Township Rollers’ first game of the 2018 CAF Champions League group stages today (Friday). Rollers locks horns with Kampala Capital City Authority(KCCA) of Uganda.
This follows CAF’s recent inspection of the national stadium. The BFA was requested to ensure that specific demands made by CAF after the inspection should be attended to as soon as possible. The inspection was meant to ensure that the stadium is suitable to host the CAF matches and remain on the list of approved venues for the games.
According to a CAF report received by BFA dated 21st April 2018, the national stadium should among others have team benches consisting of 14 seats each, as chairs are not allowed in the pitch and one covered bench for officials.
CAF demands that sanitary facilities for spectators must be clean and hygienic, the media photographers’ area should be well equipped. In addition, the media tribune should not be in the VIP area and separation must be provided for both sections. Moreover, CAF demands that spectators living with disabilities should not be seated around the playing area. The continental governing body requires that a dedicated area must be created for people living with disabilities in the stands.
Quizzed on whether, the BFA has managed to satisfy the demands of CAF, a confident Mfolo said they are ready to host the mouthwatering encounter. “By Friday morning we will have availed everything that is needed by CAF and I believe that during their next inspection they will approve,” he said. In the report, CAF noted that the national stadium will be monitored during Rollers' game against KCCA game.
Regarding arrangements on the media centre, Mfolo noted that they have a new arrangement for the media, that will ensure that they are not seated next to the VIP section. Meanwhile Rollers spokesperson Bafana Pheto said they are ready to face Uganda tonight and anything is possible. Kickoff is 1900hrs.