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Sunday, 13 September 2009

Jumping The Gun

In politics, the news that an enquiry has been leaked is not usually exceptional: it happens. Now, though, the enquiry leak concept has crossed over into the athletics arena, and it’s made a lot of folks in South Africa very angry. I reckon they’re right to be angry.

They have a new track star, and she’s called Caster Semenya. In Berlin recently, she won the 800 metres not just convincingly, but conclusively. But, so what? Usain Bolt’s been routinely trashing the opposition in the mens’ 100 and 200 metres, and nobody’s complaining – well, nobody except that opposition. He’s just pretty damn good, and so is Ms Semenya.

But there have been mutterings, so Semenya has been subjected to tests to establish her gender, which is humiliating enough for an 18 year old. And now have come the leaks, as the Guardian has reported. Doing the leaking has been the Sydney Daily Telegraph, yet another of the Murdoch stable of tabloid papers. Put directly, the leaks allege that Ms Semenya is a hermaphrodite.

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, and a man not known for being backward in coming forward, is angry, and this is not news. I reckon he should be angry, and so should all of that country’s citizens: leaking this report before the athlete and her national federation get to hear, understand and digest the findings is unforgiveable.

Zuma’s sports minister, Makhenkasi Stofile, is considering legal action against the IAAF over human rights violations, and has pointed out that this is not the first time in the Semenya affair that the media has been used as a conduit. He has a point: perhaps the IAAF should conduct an enquiry in to this leak, and establish how the information – if indeed it is genuine – got out, and in particular whether any financial inducement was involved.

Because this goes beyond decent journalism: put simply, it’s bang out of order.

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