Run, Caster, Run

Imagine a brain surgeon so good at what he does that people would rather die than take their brains elsewhere to be repaired. Imagine he was in such demand that all the other brain surgeons were forced to pack up their drills and hacksaws and welding torches and become estate agents and drug fiends.
It simply wouldn’t be fair on the competition, would it? The surgeon who was putting them out of business with his massively superior skills would have to be curtailed. He could, for instance, be instructed by the Health Professions Council to conduct surgery blindfolded. By handicapping him, the other surgeons would stand a chance of getting work and making a name for themselves too.
And this is why Caster Semenya needs to be hobbled. If things carry on as they are, it won’t be long before she is the only female athlete in the 800m and 1500m events. Why would anyone else keep pitching up if they knew for certain they were going to lose?
So the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced new rules for athletes with hyperandrogenism, commonly known as Constantly Winning Syndrome. Caster will have to chemically dose herself every day to reduce the testosterone in her body if she hopes to compete in these events.
Do you know who else should take medication to lower their testosterone levels? Men, that’s who. Particularly those on the IAAF committee who can’t live with themselves knowing that a 27-year-old black woman from South Africa could kick their arses with one hand tied behind her back.
In women, hyperandrogenism can cause you to develop acne, hirsutism and a tendency to keep winning the 800m.
In men, excessive testosterone can cause you to develop a tendency to punch people in the face, order missile strikes on Syria and attempt sex with anything that isn’t fixed to the ground.
Testosterone has a direct influence on libido. If I were married to someone who spent the day winning gold medals and still insisted on ravaging me mercilessly the moment they got home, I wouldn’t complain. Especially not if they made dinner afterwards.
I would, however, object if they lay on the couch drinking beer and watching sport all evening and then, when they sobered up at 3am, expected me to roll over and take it like a man.
I should point out that in these fictional scenarios, I have no idea what gender I am.
Anyway, it’s not hyperandrogenism that provides an unfair advantage to athletes. It’s the training. If I spent all day in the gym, I could also run 1500m in under thirty minutes.
If it’s leveling the playing field the IAAF is after, then let’s ban training altogether and throw competitions open to anyone whose body mass index is higher than their IQ. It’s elitist to have only eight people in the 100m. I want to see eight thousand people turn up at the starting line. No dress code, either. Wear overalls or even nothing at all, if you like. And you can eat and drink while you run. Everyone who breaks the 10-minute barrier gets a medal.
If that’s too extreme, then at least give we non-practising athletes our own competitions. Disabled people have the Paralympics so why can’t we have the Drunkalympics? Athletes will be breathalysed at the start of each event to ensure they aren’t under the limit. For instance, if you’re participating in the 20m stagger, you’d need to have a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.2%. Coaches will be allowed to provide their athletes with tequila shooters to ensure minimum requirements are met.
Given that most novices are unconscious by 0.15%, athletes will have to train hard if they hope to avoid the embarrassment of passing out before the starter’s gun is fired.
Athletes in the headline event – the 0.5% – are required to simply turn up and make their way onto the track without assistance. The first person to stay standing for one minute, draw a diagram of a cat and not choke on his or anyone else’s vomit will be declared the winner.
If it’s unfair advantages the IAAF is worried about, then they will have to restrict the high jump to athletes who stand no taller than 1.4m in their socks. People who have been convicted of violent crimes must be encouraged to participate in the shooting and stabbing events and swimmers must make way for aquaphobics in the water events. Dressage and other equestrian events must be accessible to marijuana smugglers from Lesotho while wrestling and boxing should be open to married couples only. Golf will be restricted to residents of squatter camps and members of the 28s.
If we’re going to be interfering, why stop at medical conditions like hyperandrogenism? Indeed, why stop at athletics? What about psychiatric conditions that drive people to accumulate more wealth than they can spend in several lifetimes? Johann Rupert is worth $7-billion American and you can still find him selling cartons of Rembrandt behind the Spar on a Friday night.
Absa CEO Maria Ramos took home R37-million last year. How berserk is that? Then again, she has to work in a bank and is married to a man once feared across the Cape Flats for his mad skills with an Okapi knife so maybe she deserves it. If that were me, though, I’d work for one year and nobody would hear from me ever again.
Oh, look. I’ve just got an email from DStv. Addressed to me personally. That’s a first. “You probably think we haven’t noticed but we know you’ve stuck with us to get the best in entertainment.” It’s true. I do spend a lot of time thinking that DStv hasn’t noticed my loyalty and there are times I cry a bit when the feelings of neglect get too much. Then I brighten up when it occurs to me that they do notice when I stick with them because the moment I don’t, they cut me off.
“As a thank you for the years you’ve spent as a part of our family, we would like to give back with a special offer.” At this, I wept openly. My own family barely tolerates me and now I find out that all along I have had another family. It doesn’t matter that they never call on my birthday, invite me for Christmas dinner or help pay for my surgeries. They were there. That’s what matters. As if that’s not enough, they also want to give me something! Will this run of good fortune ever end?
“If the phone doesn’t ring and you’re having problems during the process, SMS ‘Help’ to 42480 and we’ll call you back with the exciting details.” Oh dear. My phone frequently doesn’t ring. Often for weeks at a time. At what point will I know that I am having problems with the process? Quite frankly, family, I am a little uncomfortable sending an SMS for help to an unknown number. I don’t know who might arrive. It could be the police. Or, worse, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
You seem genuinely grateful for my custom and I’m sure you will find a way to let me know about this exciting special offer. What is it? Can I guess? Is it a new channel of Japanese game shows? A DVD of the mating habits of the common periwinkle? Perhaps, if I’m really lucky, a DStv keyring at a reduced price? I can hardly wait.
12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Five

Caster's return – A flashback

The last time Caster Semenya returned home victorious was after the Berlin world championships in 2009. This is what I wrote then. Let’s hope it goes a little better this time around.
While the state-funded broadcaster was showing a repeat of 7de Laan on Tuesday morning, was live at OR Tambo International Airport for the return of teenage mutant ninja athlete, Caster Semenya, and her muscle-bound mates.
The broadcast was live in much the same way that a snapped power cable thrashing about on the ground is live. The cameraman appeared to be having some sort of seizure and reporter Iman Rappetti could hardly be heard above the bleating of vuvuzelas and someone from the ANC Women’s League on a makeshift stage screaming hysterically. “Viva Caster Semenya viva!” she screeched. “Viva the rest of the team whose names I don’t know or even what events they participated in, viva!”
Given the uproar, a tourist might have mistaken our athletes for a team of negotiators back from securing a lasting peace in the Middle East. A reception of this magnitude surely couldn’t be for a bunch of youngsters who run, jump and throw stuff better than the rest of us.
Despite the team’s sweep of two gold medals in Berlin, the truth is that very few people would have been at the airport at all if the IAAF hadn’t implied that our star athlete was an androgynous alien simply because she doesn’t need a bra and can run the 800m in nine seconds flat.
Mercifully, lost their sound link for a few minutes. I knew what Tom Hanks must have felt like right after that shell exploded next to him in Saving Private Ryan. There were no dismembered corpses in this tableau, but Saving Caster Semenya was turning into a movie that, frighteningly, had no discernible genre. “Maybe it should go for genre testing,” I said to the cat. The cat made it clear that it couldn’t care less.
The ANC Youth League’s idiot savant, Julius Malema, was handed the microphone and the nation braced itself. “Down with racism, down!” he shouted. “Caster Semenya and Nelson Mandela make us proud!” he shouted. Of course they do. After all, Mandela spent 27 years in jail because he dared to take a stand against the inhuman policy of gender verification. Pity he couldn’t run like Caster otherwise he might never have been caught.
Then the idiot savant hit his stride. “Where are the white South Africans to welcome Caster? If it was rugby they would be here.” I may be wrong, but at 11am on a Tuesday there was an outside chance that most of them were at work. Or in Perth.
Before he was darted with a tranquiliser gun, Malema had a few words for the imperialist counter-revolutionary press. “The white-controlled media are wrong. She is female,” he babbled..
Then the Minister of Women took the stage. “Down with the IAAF, down!” shouted the human vuvuzela. “We will fight and walk together with Caster.” It’s a good thing she said “walk” because from where I sat, with my gut spilling over the top of my tracksuit pants, it didn’t look as if she could run if a lion were after her.
Then the circus moved off for a press conference. I opened another beer and, exhausted by the effort, slumped back onto the couch. Caster was flanked by a curious mixture of politicians, sports administrators, athletes and at least one convicted criminal.
The only person who failed to urge the masses to rise up against the injustices perpetrated against Caster – choosing instead to point out that sport had the capacity to unite people – was SASCOC president Gideon Sam. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
With the anaesthetic wearing off, and becoming more idiot and less savant by the second, Malema lunged for the microphone and said, “One of the people who complained to IAAF is a media institution operating in South Africa.” He demanded to know “where is patriotism”.
“Here I am,” said a Zimbabwean journalist at the back. Malema’s bodyguard moved quickly to escort Patriotism from the press conference.
The ANC Women’s League representative thanked Caster’s parents for “giving us this very pretty girl”. Caster demurely lowered her eyes, flexed her deltoids and growled softly. Then the rep said she wasn’t going to say much more “because mama is here”. Mama turned out to be Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who apparently prefers to do all the talking herself.
“I am here representing my country,” said Winnie, for the benefit of everyone wondering what she was doing at a press conference for athletes. “I align myself with everything Malema has said. The only whites here are journalists.” White viewers went to put the kettle on and check that their passports were valid.
Then Gideon Sam placed a garland of flowers around Caster’s neck. His leaning in for a kiss must rate as the second most awkward moment in sporting history, the first being at the 1972 Munich Olympics when the Israeli team opened their door expecting a pizza delivery man and instead got Black September.
Athletics SA boss Leonard Chuene, a charming man with the emotional intelligence of a five year old, foamed and frothed like a salted snail. I couldn’t understand a word. To his credit, though, he did admit that English was his fourth language, the first three being Pedi.
Then they were off to visit the president. I opened another beer and told the cat it was a bit odd that not one journalist had asked Caster a direct question. Perhaps they had been warned. The cat nodded. Then again, the cat does a lot of nodding.