Henk Botha, the veteran gaffer of Namibia’s sprint aces Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, refused to mince words when he recently described World Athletics’ ambiguous rules for athletes with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD), saying the rules were designed to target and humiliate African athletes.
Botha guided Masilingi and Mboma to the final of the women’s 200m race at the just-ended Tokyo Olympics, which saw Mboma clocking 21.81 seconds to scoop Namibia’s first-ever silver medal at the games in 25 years, and Masilingi finishing sixth overall in a personal best of 22.28 seconds.
In a recent interview with South Africa’s Newzroom Africa show, Botha said the DSD rules need to be urgently reviewed.
“I totally disagree with the rules. The argument of fairness [by World Athletics] is just unreal…You know, although my skin is white or my skin tone is a bit different than others, I’m an African and was born in Africa.
“We all see how they continue to treat us in the world of sports, especially in athletics. If this is happening to a European athlete [natural high testosterone levels] it is just nothing, but when it’s an African athlete, suddenly it is a big issue,” said a dismayed Botha, who was joined in the interview by Mboma.
The renowned athletics coach argued that Europeans’ understanding of fairness is totally misplaced and one-sided, saying African athletes are many a time at the receiving end of the chain when it comes to preparing for competitions and the general wellbeing of athletes.
“When you take African athletes, they already have problems of no training facilities; some athletes don’t even have shoes to train with and many others don’t even have access to three meals a day, in some cases. Some athletes only have one meal a day in Africa, that’s if they are lucky.
“Now tell me, when compared to European athletes, is that fair for such an athlete to compete with someone who has access to three meals a day, training shoes and all the best facilities and money in the world? Is it really fair? So, if they want to play fair, then let’s play fair throughout this whole thing,” he added, arguing that fairness in sport should not be determined by one side of the athletics world.
The Namibian teens only participated in the 200m events at the recent Tokyo Olympics, because they are barred by World Athletics from their preferred distance of 400m under the DSD rules, which bans all athletes categorised under the DSD rules from competing in distances from 400m to a mile.
If such athletes want to compete in those events, they are required to undergo surgery to lower their testosterone levels or otherwise take testosterone-reducing drugs.