Double Olympic champion Caster Semenya said she offered to show her vagina to track officials when she was just 18 years old to prove she was female. She also accused the world athletics body of making her take medication that “tortured” her and made her fear she was going to have a heart attack, according to a report on Monday in British newspaper The Telegraph.
The Telegraph published what it said were parts of an interview the South African runner did with HBO Real Sports. The full HBO interview is due to air in the United States on Tuesday.
In the interview, the Telegraph said Semenya reflected on the 2009 world championships in Berlin, where she won the 800-metre world title in dominant fashion as an 18-year-old newcomer at her first major athletics meet. But her performance and muscular physique led the world track body to order the teenager to undergo sex tests, causing a firestorm of controversy.
According to the Telegraph, Semenya said track officials from the governing body “probably” thought she had a penis.
“I told them, ‘It’s fine. I’m a female, I don’t care. If you want to see I’m a woman, I will show you my vagina. All right?’” Semenya said in the interview.
Following her world title win, Semenya was forced by the world track body to take medication that artificially lowered her naturally high testosterone if she wanted to compete against other female runners. Although the world track body has never released details of Semenya’s specific medication, it is believed she took birth control pills or something with similar properties to lower her testosterone.
“It made me sick, made me gain weight, panic attacks, I don’t know if I was ever going to have a heart attack,” Semenya said of the medication. “It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day. But I had no choice.
“I’m 18, I want to run, I want to make it to (the) Olympics, that’s the only option for me. But I had to make it work.”