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September 23, 2009

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South Africa track boss faces calls to go

SOUTH African track officials will meet this week to discuss the future of their president, who faces calls to go after he admitted to lying about his role in the gender-test case of runner Caster Semenya.

Attlee Maponyane, vice president of Athletics South Africa, said a meeting of the group's council would be held on Thursday. The council includes ASA president Leonard Chuene and leaders of sport-specific committees and provincial bodies.

Politicians are calling for Chuene's dismissal, but Maponyane and other ASA officials contacted on Monday refused to say what recommendations the council might make to the board.

Chuene, whose four-year term ends in 2012, also refused to comment on Monday.

Chuene had repeatedly said gender tests on 800-meter world champion Semenya were done abroad, not in South Africa. Over the weekend, he admitted he knew of tests conducted in South Africa, saying he had lied to protect Semenya's privacy, but refused to resign.


The International Association of Athletics Federations has been criticized in South Africa and abroad for publicly acknowledging tests, which under IAAF rules are supposed to be confidential, putting the 18-year-old Semenya at the center of an international media storm in which intimate details of her anatomy made headlines. Chuene led a South African campaign to place all the blame on the IAAF.

Semenya won the 800 at the world championships in Berlin on August 19 in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds - 2.45 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. It was the fastest time in the world this year.

The IAAF announced hours before the final that gender tests had been ordered because of questions about Semenya's muscular physique and recent stunning improvement in times.

Maponyane also said that the IAAF must answer about why a confidential matter went public.

The sports ministry has called on the ASA to fire Chuene, as did several opposition parties. The governing African National Congress said in a weekend statement that it was "appalled by the manner in which both the IAAF and the ASA have handled the issue."

In an editorial, the Johannesburg newspaper The Times said: "Chuene must go - unless South Africa is prepared to condone his appalling behavior."

If ASA does stand by Chuene, it could find itself overruled by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the Semenya case.


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