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Leonard Chuene’s real mistake


Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene fell into the classic trap of not thinking far enough ahead when he made the fateful decision not to withdraw Caster Semenya from the Berlin competition.

Most of the criticism and calls for his resignation have been from the emotional/human level, his failure as a CEO of athletics SA.and the misplaced racism calls lodged by the government without first finding out the facts (more on that another day).

I think the problem is much simpler. He suffered from something we all do at times which is, in the heat of the moment, to not think strategically. This is not rocket science.

If he had played out the scenarios in his mind at the point when team doctor Harold Adams gave him the results of the tests and recommended he withdraw Semenya, he would have come up with 3 scenarios.

The three scenarios are based on the two biggest uncertainties that he faced; whether or not Caster won and if the gender issue which he was sitting on was found out or not.

Leonard Chuene’s real mistake

The lucky break scenario, in professional athletics, is so unlikely that it is not even worth considering, unless as one of my students astutely pointed out, Caster only won by a narrow margin in which case there might not have been so much controversy. Either way I don’t think any thinking person would have taken that risk.

If she didn’t win then the ‘Doesn’t matter scenario’ is unlikely to have caused much controversy. Then again, why enter someone in the athletics world champs unless you are going for a win.

Which brings us to scenario number one, the most likely and the one whose story has been written all over the world over the past weeks.

This five minute exercise could have prevented all the commotion and embarrassment. A few minutes thinking about how the situation could have played out would have shown clearly what the right decision was. Then again the inability to think a little bit strategically is the nub of the problem.