NBC is being very careful when discussing women's 800-meter runner Caster Semenya of South Africa. How careful? During Thursday night's live semifinal race, the two announcers repeated literally word for word the same information about Semenya that they used during her quarterfinal run on Wednesday.
The tell was the opening by lead announcer Tom Hammond, which was identical to what he said before the quarters, which I watched live. Either he read it off a script or NBC simply replayed what he said a day earlier.
"There are more than 190 countries competing in this sport at the Games, and it is naturally a microcosm of all societal issues, including shifting societal views of gender, including how to treat intersex athletes," Hammond said. "South Africa's Caster Semenya has been at the center of the controversy due to her performances and some of her physical characteristics." Hammond then went on with some background.
After describing the legal controversy about whether to allow Semenya to run and her testosterone level, analyst Craig Masback said how much the controversy has been unfair to Semenya and noted that her case has been "bungled by all relevant" parties. Like Hammond, Masback repeated exactly what he said Wednesday.
I don't blame NBC for being careful since the issues of intersex athletes and testosterone levels confuse people (a great explanation can be found here) and they want to be sensitive and use correct terminology.
At Outsports, we originally had Semenya and Indian runner Dutee Chand on our list of out LGBTI athletes. We later realized that neither woman has said she is intersex, so we removed them from that category. An expert in biomedical ethics, Katrina Karkazis of Stanford, told us via email:
"Neither of them has publicly confirmed anything about their biology or that they are intersex. For that reason I have not labeled them as such in my writings. I usually use the word hyperandrogenism or say women with naturally high T levels or something like that. Intersex women have hyperandrogenism but not all women with hyperandrogenism have an intersex trait."
Semenya does have a wife, Violet Raseboya, though she has never publicly described her sexual orientation. We list her as an open lesbian, gay or bisexual athlete since she is in a same-sex relationship.
Semenya will run for gold in the 800 meters on Saturday, where she is the favorite.