South Africa's Pistorius, Semenya off Olympic funding program

AP, Thursday 23 May 2013

Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya were left off a list of athletes to be given funding ahead of the 2016 Rio Games because neither is currently training or competing, the South African Olympic Committee said Thursday

In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, South Africa's Caster Semenya after finishing in second place in the women's 800-meter final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London. (Photo: AP)

Pistorius, a double-amputee runner who competed at the London Games, was not on the high performance list for the next Olympics and Paralympics after his decision to stay away from competition for the rest of the year to focus on defending himself against a murder charge for the shooting death of his girlfriend in February.

While Pistorius' absence on the list released Wednesday was expected, Semenya's was a major surprise after building a reputation as South Africa's top runner over the past four years.

She won the 800-meter world title in Berlin in 2009 and returned to competition following a yearlong absence because of a gender test controversy to win silver medals at the 2011 worlds and last year's London Olympics.

Still only 22, Semenya is seen as South Africa's best hope for an Olympic track title in Rio, but wasn't part of the Operation Excellence program because she wasn't training or competing and it was unclear if she would run at this year's world championships, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee chief executive Tubby Reddy told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"There is no point spending money on athletes that are not training," Reddy said.

But Reddy also said that the list wasn't definitive and athletes could work their way back into the funding program.

He didn't rule out Pistorius being eligible for a place if he was cleared of the murder charge against him.

"It is very simplistic," Reddy said, "if he (Pistorius) is found not guilty he could be on the program."

The 26-year-old multiple Paralympic champion had aimed to end his track career by running the able-bodied Olympics and Paralympics in Rio — the second time Pistorius would have achieved that double, after London — but that looks increasingly unlikely as he faces a long and high-profile trial after being charged with premeditated murder. Pistorius will appear in court again on June 4.

There was also still a chance Semenya could be added to the list, Reddy said, "if she is back on track, if she is training."

Semenya did not take part at the South African national championships at the beginning of April and SASCOC and Athletics South Africa were unsure of her plans for 2013 and if she would try to qualify for the worlds in Moscow in August, Reddy said.

The decision to leave Pistorius and Semenya off the list — which included Olympic champion swimmers Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh — came after Athletics South Africa did not propose them for the program, the Olympic committee said.

However, that process was complicated because the entire board of ASA has been suspended by SASCOC amid an internal power struggle and the body is being run by an administrator.

ASA president James Evans, who is disputing his suspension, said he was not consulted in leaving Semenya off the program and was surprised by the decision.

"She is the golden girl of South African athletics," Evans told the AP. "I'm actually flabbergasted that they've pulled her."

Operation Excellence helps athletes with money for living expenses, medical treatment and access to training venues, among other things, SASCOC said.

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