Caster Semenya of South Africa had to undergo gender testing. ((Lee Warren/Getty Images) )

How brave of Caster Semenya.

The runner whose sex was publicly dissected and doubted when she won the women's 800 metres world title is burning to compete again.

When she does, Semenya knows she'll face questions and the scorching glare of global attention. Yet she still wants to race. That is ironclad proof of her fortitude and of her admirable dedication as an athlete.

But Semenya is proving she is smart, reasonable and well-advised, too, by agreeing to delay her comeback to June at the earliest.

Semenya's inalienable right to participate in sport, a right enshrined in the Olympic charter, is not the only thing that counts here.

Her complex and difficult case has thrown up all sorts of questions for women's sports, some agonizing dilemmas that need time to untangle.

Semenya's gender is not in question. She was raised as a girl in South Africa. She considers herself as a woman. That is that. End of story.

But her sex is a sporting issue because sport — for reasons of fair play, culture, history and economics — divides competitors into two categories: men and women. That would just work fine if nature did, too.

But it doesn't. It values variety. As well as basic "man" and "woman" models, it makes a range of people who for various reasons, not all of them fully understood, fall somewhere in between, with "intersex" conditions that can give them some characteristics of both sexes.

Whether this is the case with Semenya isn't clear. Semenya is adamant that there's no medical or legal reason to stop her from continuing to compete as a woman. But she still hasn't received the green light from the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Without the blessing of track and field's governing body, race organizers don't dare let her run. The 19-year-old has not worn her spikes competitively since she won the 800 metres at the world championships in Berlin last August.

Understandably, she finds the situation deeply unfair and frustrating.

"Caster has every right to compete in IAAF events," one of her lawyers, Jeffrey Kessler, said this week. "The current open-ended situation with her status and eligibility the subject of constant speculation in the media is causing great harm and distress, both to Caster and to all who believe in fair play in the sporting world."

But rather than force the issue, they are also giving the IAAF more time. That is wise, because once Semenya has the IAAF's blessing, she'll simply be able to answer "the governing body cleared me" when she faces the inevitable questions about her sex when she races again. Semenya is now targeting a June 24 meet in Zaragoza, Spain, for her return.

The protracted delay in clearing Semenya to compete, and her lawyers' choice of co-operation not confrontation, would, however, also seem to suggest that sex-type tests ordered by the IAAF determined that hers was not an open-and-shut case.

That doesn't necessarily have to mean that Semenya is not eligible to compete as a woman. But it could mean that the tests determined that she has some male characteristics that could, in theory at least, give her a competitive advantage over other women.

The extremely delicate question for sports administrators in all such cases is what, if anything, should be done? We don't know what solution the IAAF and Semenya's lawyers are working on to enable her to get her back on the track. But it does need to be right not just for her but also for the broader interests of women's sports. And it is understandable if that is taking a little longer than everyone hoped for.

Putting Semenya aside for a moment, imagine if the IAAF decided that anyone who was raised as a girl and who defines themselves as a woman was allowed to compete as one. Period. No more intrusive gender tests for women merely because they look muscular. No more protocols to regulate which intersex conditions are acceptable for women competitors and which are not.

The competitive advantages that some intersex conditions can, in theory, provide would then be treated no differently than the genetic gifts which made Kobe Bryant tall and strong or gave Roger Federer uncanny hand-eye co-ordination. For example, there would be no barrier to a woman who has internal testes which produce large of amounts of testosterone, the male hormone that helps build muscle and strength, making it a winner for athletes. Semenya has that condition, according to reports in Australian newspapers, which the IAAF has refused to confirm or deny.

This solution would be all-inclusive, human and embracing.

But what about fair play? Allowing people with uncommonly high levels of testosterone or other male characteristics to compete as women challenges sports' cherished notion of the need for a level playing field. Other women, like the Italian who uncharitably called Semenya a man after the 800 metres final, would certainly complain as female records and prizes are pushed beyond their reach.

In which case, the answer might be introducing clearer, more workable guidelines for dealing with gender disputes. The IAAF has a group of experts working on that now. In the wake of Semenya's case, new rules could be hurried through as soon as this August.

Semenya, of course, doesn't want to wait that long to compete again. Hopefully, she won't have to. But the complex and far-reaching questions that her case has raised need thinking about, too. And the answers deserve a little time.