Athletics-Simbine on world mission but rues Semenya absence
South African sprinter Akani Simbine will look to become the fastest man on earth at next month's world championships but he will run with a heavy heart that his compatriot and friend Caster Semenya will not be joining him in Doha.
Simbine, 25, has enjoyed a stellar year in preparation for his fourth world championships, winning 100-metres gold at last year's Commonwealth Games and triumphing at London's Diamond League meeting in July.
However, what should be a golden period for South African athletics with Simbine's rise and the achievements of Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has been overshadowed by the ongoing saga of Semenya's participation in the sport.
The 28-year-old double 800m Olympic gold medallist is fighting an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regulation that female middle-distance runners with a high natural level of testosterone must take medication to reduce it.
The Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) last month reversed a ruling that temporarily lifted the IAAF’s testosterone regulations imposed on Semenya, effectively ruling her out of the September 28-October 6 world championships in Qatar.
Simbine, who has talked to Semenya on the phone, said the case was sad for the whole country.
"There's a kind of knock-on (effect) on the South African sporting world, not just athletics because Caster was Queen of South African sports and now we can’t see her anymore," he told Reuters in telephone interview.
"But as athletes and sports people we support her as much as we can... because she is one of us at the end of the day. To show the world that we are together as one and she's not fighting this on her own.
"Seeing a friend going through something like this is heartbreaking and upsetting and is really not nice."