An Otago University geneticist and paediatrician said yesterday that even if the reports proved correct, it did not necessarily mean Semenya was a hermaphrodite. Professor Stephen Robertson, the head of Otago University's clinical genetics research group, said a hermaphrodite is a person with both ovarian and testicular tissues and is extremely rare.
Semenya could have an "inter-sex" condition but not be a hermaphrodite.
The medical term "inter-sex conditions" refers to a range of genetic and hormonal disorders where normal sexual development is incomplete. Conditions included Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (testosterone fails to dock with cells and trigger all normal responses) and alpha-5-reductase deficiency (testosterone is not converted to an active form).
The tests on the athlete were carried out in Berlin and involved an endocrinologist, a gynaecologist and a psychologist. Leonard Chuene, the president of Athletics South Africa, said the body stood by the teenager and would be advising her to avoid making any statement until the IAAF had formally told her the test results.
Have there been other cases of intersex conditions in sport?
Yes. Semenya was the eighth case of sexuality issues the International Amateur Athletes Federation has handled since 2005. IAAF secretary-general Pierre Weiss said four of those athletes were asked to stop their career but he gave no further details.
Does the condition automatically disqualify them from elite sport?
No. Eight women "failed" the sex verification test at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics because they had a Y-chromosome. All eight were allowed to compete.
What health implications might there be?
If as has been reported regarding Semenya the person has internal testes, there is a cancer risk and they are usually removed. Semenya reportedly has three-times the female average of testosterone. Removing the testes will reduce this. As testosterone influences muscle development this may impact on athletic performance.
What next for Semenya?
The IAAF is to submit the sex test results to a panel of experts. Its executive council will consider her case when it meets in late November. "It is clear that she is a woman but maybe not 100 per cent. We have to see if she has an advantage from her possibly being between two sexes," Weiss said.