Is She a Man? Is Phelps a Fish?

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2009 8:55 AM CDT
South Africa's gold medal winner Caster Semenya displays her medal after the ceremony for the Women's 800m final at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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(Newser) – It's wrong to be subjecting South African sprinter Caster Semenya to "a public slaying," writes Antonia Senior, who says that debating her gender has no more credibility than asking if "Michael Phelps is really a fish." For the Times of London columnist, sports are now "increasingly the showground of the freakishly proportioned," where a few people who've won a genetic lottery compete for massive prizes. Why pick on one?

When international sport began it was a leisure pursuit, but now "sport is at the forefront of globalization," encompassing huge corporations and government departments. For the athletes, "the route to success is brutal, even for those of the right shape and proportions"—and from Eastern Europe to China, states take extreme measures to turn freaks into champions. At least Semenya, at just 18, achieved her greatness via her own effort; whatever her genetic makeup, that makes her "heroic and amazing."