Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa says after engagements with sports federations body SASCOC and Athletics South Africa, it has been agreed that steps will be taken to challenge the IAAF’s new regulations seen to be targeted at barring Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya from participating in certain races.
Xasa said this when she tabled the department’s Budget Vote speech at the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament, on Tuesday.
“As [the] Ministry and Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa, we have engaged SASCOC and Athletics South Africa (ASA) on the on-going matter relating on the new eligibility Regulations for Female Classification for events from the 400m and 1500m of International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF).
“We have agreed that SASCOC’s Medical Commission should meet to evaluate the evidence that IAAF has relied upon. That ASA should assemble a legal team to act based on advice of experts to lodge an appeal with IAAF and should this not be heeded, to proceed with the matter at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland,” she said.
Xasa called on all South Africans to rally behind Semenya and commended law Professor Steve Cornelius for “being a true South African by rejecting the unjust discriminatory, sexist and homophobic regulations designed to disadvantage Caster and any other upcoming African built athletes”.
Professor Cornelius resigned from the IAAF’s disciplinary tribune in protest of new rules that would require some athletes, particularly Semenya, to under-go testosterone-reducing treatment before or face a ban from 400m and 1500m, races respectively.
“We will keep track on the developments and utilize all available avenues working in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a favourable outcome of all affected athletes.
“Women in sport is still minimal, lack support from relevant codes and with no sponsors, while doing so well,” she said.
School sports to be prioritised
Xasa said, meanwhile, that school sport was a foundation for development.
She said school sport will be prioritised in the year ahead to effectively transform the racial and class composition of the sport sector at grass-roots level.
“Integrating physical education and sport experiences into the school day will make sport accessible to all children who attend school regardless of their physical ability, gender, socio-economic background.
“Participation in school sport promotes healthy lifestyles and has the potential to inevitably reduce the health bill. Learners in sport are learners away from jail and drugs.
“Therefore, in this regard, I will be signing a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Basic Education in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
The Minister said in this regard, school sport remains a very important vehicle for transformation and social cohesion.
“Through school sport, communities and nations are able to unite and share in the glory that sport people achieve.
“School sport is generally recognised as the bedrock for talent identification. This therefore means that there has to be a healthy working relationship between the clubs, federations and school sport to ensure the development of identified talent,” she said.