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Caster Semenya, Cyril Ramaphosa among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019

By Ashfak Mohamed |IOL Sport|

Caster Semenya has “caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to ‘male’ and ‘female’ classifications”.

Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya

That was part of the entry from two-time Olympic gold medallist Edwin Moses in describing the impact made by South Africa’s 800m world champion in being honoured by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019.

Semenya is one of two South Africans who made the list, along with President Cyril Ramaphosa, and among a whole host of sports stars such as Masters champion Tiger Woods, Liverpool star Mohamed Salah and basketball legend LeBron James.

Semenya has been battling the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to set aside impending regulations that will force female athletes with high testosterone levels to take medication to lower it before competing in events ranging from the 400m to the mile.

“A world and Olympic track-and-field champion several times over, Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to ‘male’ and ‘female’ classifications,” wrote American Moses, a 400m hurdles champion during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Semenya identifies as a woman, but has testosterone levels higher than the typical female. Her success has brought controversy in elite sport, with many arguing that her biological traits give her an unfair advantage in women’s competition.

“But Semenya is fighting that. Sport eligibility, she and others say, should not be based on hormone levels or other differences of sex development.

“If successful, Semenya’s effort could open the door for all who identify as women to compete in track events without having to first medically lower their testosterone levels below a proposed limit.

“Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

On Ramaphosa, Time correspondent Vivienne Walt stated: “South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has perfected the art of patience. Raised in the township of Soweto, he honed his political skills helping his country navigate its way out of apartheid.

“Then, when he was sidelined for the presidency in the 1990s, he harnessed his cunning and gregariousness to make a vast fortune in business, while his rivals sank the country into dysfunction and cronyism.

“Now finally, at 66, Ramaphosa, or Cyril, as he’s known to South Africans, has the chance to end corruption and grow the stalled economy. That could be his toughest battle yet.

“Blackouts, grinding poverty and massive unemployment have left millions desperate for quick results. Vicious infighting in his African National Congress party leaves him vulnerable to a coup, or perhaps an ouster in elections on May 8.

“For all that, Ramaphosa has kept his characteristic chuckle and his knack for focusing on the bigger picture. ‘Unity,’ he said recently, ‘was never going to happen overnight.’

“After a lifetime fighting his enemies, he should know.”