PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - Reports on Friday that gender testing on South Africa's running sensation has determined she has hidden male sexual organs triggered outrage and dealt a blow to her family, who may have been unaware of the reported condition. And, foremost, there is worry about how the 18-year-old will handle all this.
Newspaper reports from Australia said testing determined Caster Semenya has internal testes, meaning the runner herself, who was raised in a poor village, may have been unaware of such a condition.
And now such intimate details are there for the world to see.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, which ordered the testing, refused to confirm or deny the reports. The IAAF said it is reviewing the test results and will not issue any final decision until November at their meeting in Monaco.
South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile held a press conference Friday to express his horror at the handling of the whole affair. He insisted Caster, who won gold at the world athletic championships in August, is female and that lack of a womb should not disqualify her from women's competition.
"We think her human rights have been violated and her privacy invaded," Stofile said. "I don't know why she is being subjected to this."
Stofile said that with the world being told that she is a hermaphrodite, another youngster might be driven to commit suicide, adding: "It can be as bad as that."
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the case could have serious psychological repercussions.
"This is something that touches the very soul of the individual," Rogge told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The psychological but also social consequences are really tremendous. This is something that preferably should be handled discreetly if you have the time to do that."
Semenya, who has a low voice and whose body ripples with muscles, dropped out of sight Friday. The South African Press Association quoted her coach, Michael Seme, as saying she would not take part in a women's 4,000-meter at the South African Cross Country Championships in Pretoria on Saturday because she was "not feeling well." Seme had said earlier in the week Semenya would run.
She has told reporters she is happy the way she is and seemed to take the controversy in stride when she appeared on the cover of a South African magazine earlier this week wearing makeup, gold jewelry and a dress, foregoing the pants she normally wore.
Semenya's father, Jacob, expressed anger when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday, saying people who insinuate his daughter is not a woman "are sick. They are crazy."
He said he had not been told anything by the IAAF or Athletics South Africa, the local governing body.
"I know nothing," he said.
South African President Jacob Zuma condemned the media, saying they had exploited Semenya, who won the women's world 800-meter race in Berlin.
"I don't think we should play around with people's lives and their privacy," Zuma said.
Stofile, speaking at a press conference, said he has no doubts about Semenya's gender.
"She's a woman, she remains our heroine. We must protect her," he said.
Ordinary South Africans shared the outrage.
"I think it is disgusting, the way it has been handled," said Richard Redman, 25, a film student in Johannesburg. "It shouldn't have been made public because the girl is 18 years old ... How is she going to handle that? She may think of killing herself. She has lived her whole life as a woman and now she is told she is a bit of both."
Fiona Dube, a 22-year-old, waitress, said: "I pity her because of the way she found out. I think her privacy has been invaded."
The Australian newspaper reported that medical reports on Semenya indicate she has no ovaries and has internal male testes, which produce large amounts of testosterone.
At a news conference in Greece on Friday, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss, IAAF vice president Sergei Bubka and other association officials refused to comment and instead distributed a written statement to reporters.
"We would like to emphasize that these should not be considered as official statements by the IAAF," the statement said. "We can officially confirm that gender verification test results will be examined by a group of medical experts."
Proving one's gender isn't always so easy. Aside from the obvious physical signs, chromosomes usually determine whether a person is male or female. Males are born with XY chromosomes while females have two X chromosomes.
These people may have the physical characteristics of both genders, a chromosomal disorder, or simply have ambiguous features. The condition is generally referred to as intersexuality. The older term for someone who has both male and female organs is hermaphrodite.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said Thursday the IAAF had obtained the results but couldn't confirm the Australian news reports. Davies said the newspaper's report "should be treated with caution."
The IAAF has said Semenya probably would keep her medal because the case was not related to a doping matter. Leonard Chuene, the president of Athletics South Africa, told the AP that all he has heard from the IAAF is that the test results will be available in November.
Associated Press writers Stephen Wilson in London, Nkemeleng Nkosi in Johannesburg, Courtney Brooks in Kleinmond, South Africa and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, contributed to this report.