Semenya back on track

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MONACO, July 7 – Controversial athlete Caster Semenya expressed her delight on Tuesday at being cleared to compete as a woman following nearly a year of speculation over her gender.The 19-year-old South African 800m world champion was given the green light to run again after a review by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of gender-verification tests.

That clears the path for her to compete as early as in the World Junior Championships in Canada from July 19 and October’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

"The process initiated in 2009 in the case of Caster Semenya has now been completed," the IAAF said in a statement.

"The IAAF accepts the conclusion of a panel of medical experts that she can compete with immediate effect."

The IAAF added: "The medical details of the case remain confidential and the IAAF will make no further comment on the matter."

The furore over Semenya’s sexuality first erupted after she lowered her personal best in the 800 metres by more than four seconds at the African Junior Championships, weeks before the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

She went on to lower her personal best to 1:55.45 in winning gold in Berlin.

Semenya, whose muscular physique and deep voice also drew questions about her gender, said Tuesday she was "thrilled" to return to women’s track.

"I am thrilled to enter the global athletics arena once again and look forward to competing with all the disputes behind me," she said in a statement released by her lawyers.

Her lawyer Greg Nott said the settlement resulted from protracted negotiations between medical teams of the IAAF and Semenya’s own team, presided over by an international mediator.

Terms of the agreement will remain confidential, he said.

"We are delighted that Caster is finally being permitted to compete with other women, as is her legal and natural right," said fellow lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.

"Hopefully, this resolution will set a precedent so that no female athlete in the future will have to experience the long delays and public scrutiny which Caster has been forced to endure."

Semenya has not run since leaked test results said she was a hermaphrodite following her win at the Berlin worlds in August, 2009.

The incident sparked anger from the South African public and government, who have rallied behind the athlete.

Ruling ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu hailed Semenya as "our golden girl".

"The ANC welcomes the decision by the IAAF to finally clear our ‘golden girl’, Caster Semenya, to participate in all athletics meetings as well as the international ones as a woman," Mthembu said.

"The decision by the IAAF of clearing Caster is a vindication of the ANC, her family, our government and all progressive forces who stood behind her during her time of need."

He added: "We appeal to all South Africans and people of the world and other athletes to assist Caster in putting the unfortunate past behind her so that she can continue on what she does best, which is running."

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