Caster Semenya offered to show her vagina to athletics officials in 2009 when she won her first world 800 metres title aged 18 to prove she was female.
The 31-year-old South African middle-distance runner, who also earned 800m Olympic gold medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016 before being ruled ineligible to carry on racing over that distance due to her naturally elevated testosterone levels, revealed the incident during an interview with HBO’s Real Sports. Shortly after Semenya had announced herself as a global talent by taking the 800m world title in Berlin by a huge margin, the sport’s world governing body – then the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – said she would undergo gender verification tests.
“They thought I had a dick, probably,” Semenya told HBO.
“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?’”
Gender tests on Semenya reportedly showed the runner had internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone, and her levels of the hormone were three times that of a “normal” female.
Semenya has a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass and strength and the body’s ability to use oxygen.
She took medication after an initial ruling in 2011 by the IAAF – which became World Athletics in June 2019 – that all female athletes with hyperandrogenism had to lower their testosterone levels through medical means.