Friday, September 18, 2009

Semenya saga: Chuene's trail of lies

A gold at any cost, huh? Africa is nowhere near the rest of the world when it comes to understanding the value of morals and ethics, in every aspect. The main culprits of the Semenya fraud were Chuene and Malehopo, who will probably never realize the damage they did to their athletes. Especially Semen-ya, who after all, is only 18 years old. Fraud or no fraud.

An exchange of emails between the doctor of the South African athletics team, Harold Adams, and Athletics South Africa boss Leonard Chuene makes it crystal clear that Chuene knew Caster Semenya was gender-tested in South Africa before the World Championships in Berlin last month.

Chuene’s denial that he knew of any tests conducted locally before the tournament is one of a string of lies exposed by a Mail & Guardian investigation.

The email, which the M&G has seen, was sent by Adams to ASA general manager Molatelo Malehopo and copied to Chuene on August 5. The World Championships began on August 15.

It reads: “After thinking about the current confidential matter I would suggest that we make the following decisions. 1. We get a gynae opinion and take it to Berlin. 2. We do nothing and I will handle these issues if they come up in Berlin. Please think and get back to me ASAP.”

An emailed response from Malehopo to Adams, sent on the same day, reads: “I will suggest that you go ahead with the necessary tests that the IAAF might need.”

Chuene has repeatedly maintained that no tests were conducted in South Africa before the tournament. He has also denied that ASA authorised and paid for the tests.

Chuene has defended his decision to field the 800m champion in Berlin, by saying that “no reasons were given to him on why he should withdraw Semenya from the championships”.

The M&G can reveal that Semenya was tested at the Medforum Medi-clinic in Pretoria early last month and that she received counselling from ASA board member and psychologist Laraine Lane beforehand.

The tests were conducted by Oscar Shimange, a medical doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Approached for comment, Lane said this week: “I cannot discuss issues regarding my clients. I can’t deny or confirm anything; it would be a ­conflict of interest if I did that. I would like to help you, but I can’t.”

Chuene has also claimed that Adams, who was commissioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to oversee Semenya’s gender tests in South Africa, is not the official doctor of team South Africa.

In an ASA press release about the final team for the World Championships in Berlin, sent out on August 4 and in possession of the M&G, Adams is listed in the team’s management as “team doctor”.

President Jacob Zuma’s personal physician, Adams arrived with Semenya on August 9 in Neubrandenburg, Germany, where team South Africa was based.

A senior official close to ASA said that when team South Africa was in Neubrandenburg, Adams received a call from Medforum Medi-clinic informing him of Semenya’s gender test results, which were “not good”. The results can take up to two days to arrive after testing.

The official said Adams then convened a meeting with Chuene, ASA vice-president Kakata Maponyane and the events manager of team South Africa, Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane. Adams advised them to withdraw Semenya from the competition, but they refused. Adams had also examined sprinters Kagiso Kumbane and Tshegofatso Meshoe, and advised that they should be withdrawn because of injury. The ASA had obliged.

Another official told the M&G: “Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said they couldn’t withdraw Semenya because they needed a medal at all costs. Chuene didn’t even bother to brief the athlete about the developments around the tests and the implications. They destroyed an innocent girl because of a medal.”

Efforts to get comment from Adams proved fruitless, as he did not return the M&G’s calls.
A senior athletics official who knows Chuene well said: “Chuene has been lying to the nation from the onset. It’s time for him and his crew to tell the truth, apologise to the nation and resign.”

The official said before the Berlin championships Adams received an email from the IAAF raising concerns about Semenya’s gender.

Adams had responded by sending the email already described to Malehopo and Chuene seeking advice on what action to take. After consulting Chuene, Malehopo responded, authorising gender tests.

“The arrangements were made and Semenya was taken in for tests accompanied by her coach, Michael Seme. There’s just no way that they didn’t know about the tests,” said the senior official.

Contacted for comment, Malehopo denied giving Adams the go-ahead. “That is interesting news to me. If people have evidence they should bring it forward and we will take it from there but I don’t know anything.”

He said he knew nothing about his August 5 email to Adams. He also promised to respond to questions to him and Chuene, but neither had done so by the time the M&G went to print.

ASA’s Maponyane has stood by Chuene, claiming that Adams had given no reason for withdrawing Semenya from the competition. “He only said that he was waiting for the results from South Africa but did not explain further. And that is when we learned that Semenya had undergone gender tests in South Africa. We want to know who authorised those tests to be conducted without our knowledge,” he said.

The ASA has called for its own commission of inquiry into the Semenya affair, while Parliament’s sports committee has demanded that the athletics body be hauled before the National Assembly.

But the senior official who spoke to the M&G warned that Chuene’s friends “will sit in that commission. Parliament will not help either, because Chuene is politically well ­connected. What we need is a judicial commission of inquiry, which has to be instituted by [Jacob] Zuma. It should look at the burning issue and athletics in general. ASA leaders should step aside until we get to the bottom of this.”

The Mail & Guardian

2 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

Dig Chuene, dig. That hole is just getter bigger and deeper...

Buzzd said...

It would appear, from reports, that Caster just appeared on the scene, was taken to Berlin and won the 800m. All without an prior experience, training or coaching. Else someone would have noticed and all the current personal and national embarrassment would have been averted.