Hyperandrogenism Debate Re-ignites After South African Wins Gold | NECN
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Hyperandrogenism Debate Re-ignites After South African Wins Gold

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    RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Caster Semenya of South Africa reacts after winning gold in the Women's 800 meter Final on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

    It was predicted. That didn't make it any less impressive, or any less contentious.

    Caster Semenya won the Olympic title in the 800 meters Saturday with no one close to challenging her, a result that will only stoke the complex debate over whether women with much higher levels of testosterone than normal should be allowed to compete unchecked.

    Semenya of South Africa won her first Olympic gold in a personal-best of 1 minute 55.28 seconds, a national record and one of the top 20 times ever in the two-lap race.

    • WATCH: Caster Semenya Wins 800m Race

    Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba took silver over a second behind the dominant Semenya, with Kenya's Margaret Wambui collecting the bronze in an all-African podium.

    Semenya, who appeared barely out of breath at the finish, popped a South African flag onto her shoulder and took a leisurely jog around the stadium to celebrate. She had just run the fastest time over two laps by any woman anywhere for eight years.

    Semenya, with silvers at the 2011 world championships and 2012 Olympics, was the heavy favorite to win the 800 title in Rio de Janeiro, so much so that some of the other women competing in the earlier qualifying races admitted that they just couldn't keep up with her.

    On Saturday, Semenya didn't come close to breaking the 33-year-old world record of Jarmila Kratochvilova — a long-standing mark some predicted was in Semenya's sights — but she was never in trouble in the race. 

    In her style, Semenya sat back behind leader Niyonsaba until the final 150 meters, then unleashed a powerful burst from out of the curve to pull away down the straightaway, leaving her competitors trailing and fighting for silver.

    Such is Semenya's dominance this year, it was exactly how everyone thought it would go.

    Since her arrival in track and field in 2009, when she won the world title as an 18-year-old newcomer, Semenya has been the unwilling face of one of the most complex and sensitive debates for the sport. Do women who have much higher levels of natural testosterone than normal have an advantage over other women in athletics, and if so, is it fair?

    Semenya's breakthrough world title seven years ago moved the IAAF to introduce rules limiting testosterone in female athletes. Semenya is believed to be one of a number of female athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics with very high testosterone — caused by a condition called hyperandrogenism.

    But under a legal challenge, the IAAF was forced to drop the testosterone-limiting rules last year. Many believe that left Semenya, and others, free to run again with their very high naturally-occurring testosterone levels. 

    Many believe it also left Semenya, an outstanding athlete anyway, with an unbeatable advantage.