After holding off an attack to win in Paris on Tuesday night, Caster Semenya launched one of her own at the folk in Monaco, telling the IAAF to ‘catch dopers, not me’.
It was quite the soundbite and quite the continuation of the saga between Semenya and the sport’s rulers, whose new regulations would have her take testosterone-lowering medication in order to compete between 400m and a mile.
It remains to be seen how that mess is resolved, with Semenya’s appeal lodged in the Swiss federal courts, but in the meantime, with her future uncertain, the double Olympic is trying to go about business as usual by winning races. On Tuesday night, in the low-key surrounds of the Meeting de Montreuil in Paris, that meant holding off Hawi Feysa of Ethiopia to win the novelty distance of 2000m in 5:38.19.
Following her victory, she was firm in making her point against the IAAF and their requirement to take medication, saying: ‘I’m not an idiot. Why will I take drugs? I’m a pure athlete. I don’t cheat. They should focus on doping, not us. I’m never going to take drugs.’
Throughout this episode, and beyond the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling against her last month, Semenya’s hope has never wavered that she will somehow emerge from this legal battle in a position to defend her 800m world title in Doha this autumn. Currently that situation looks bleak, but she insisted the ‘nonsense’ would not distract her as she prepares for the worlds in the expectation of being there.
When asked by Sportsmail about the cloud over her head, she said: ‘I always run every day. For me it is my daily bread.
‘I really don’t have time for nonsense, for messages for anyone, I made it clear a long time ago that I am going to focus on myself and not anyone. They (the IAAF) have a problem with me, I don’t have a problem with them. That is their business to worry, not mine. I came here to deliver and I have delivered.
‘I am not going to talk about the appeal. I am not the lawyer, all I can answer with is my performance. What I do best is perform and my actions will speak louder than words. I am just going to keep doing what I do best. People will provoke you but for me negativity does not exist.’
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the complex legal argument against what we now term Athletes with Differences of Sex Development, it is inevitably regrettable that such an extraordinary athlete is clinging by her fingernails to her place as an elite competitor. While this win in France will doubtless her help morale, there remains little evidence to suggest she will be a major threat across a far greater distance if she does ultimately step up to 5000m.
In this race, she went to the front with two laps remaining, and while she never gave up the spot, it was telling that she couldn’t pull away from Feysa in the final 100m.
Meanwhile, the exceptional early-season form of Laura Muir continued in the 800m in France. Her campaign at the World Championships in the autumn will be fought at 1500m, where she will be a favourite for a medal, but at the shorter distance she looked extremely strong in winning in 2:00.63, beating European 800m bronze medallist Olga Lyakhova by more than a second in driving rain.
On the back of the Rome Diamond League last week, where the Scot produced the second fastest 1500m run of her career, she believes she has never been in better form at this stage in a season. Muir said: ‘I feel strong and happy.
‘I think indoors went great for me (winning European gold in 1500m and 3000m), then I went back into hard training and I am getting fitter and fitter and not having to worry about exams in June and things has made a big difference to my form. Usually in June I would be knackered after exams but this year it is different. I think it is the strongest I have felt for this time of year.’