There are few athletes who divide opinion more than Caster Semenya.

For some, she’s a true great of her sport who is thoroughly deserving of her two Olympic gold medals and three World titles Olympic titles and is someone who has been wrongly persecuted and targeted as a result of racism.

For others, the middle-distance runner is biologically male and has been illegitimately and unfairly competing, and winning, in the women’s category, depriving genuinely female-born athletes of fair competition.

The debate has been ongoing for over a decade and now, Semenya is back in the spotlight following the release of her memoir entitled “The Race to be Myself”.

The South African’s story is complicated but it stems from her being born with hyperandrogenism, or DSD, which means she was born with female genitalia but also with XY chromosomes. And despite being assigned female at birth, she has elevated levels of testosterone, which help athletic performance enormously.

Throughout the course of her career, which saw Semenya win numerous major middle-distance titles including World and Olympic golds, the now 32-year-old became embroiled in a battle with athletics’ authorities about whether or not she was eligible to compete as a woman and what medication, if any, she should take to reduce her testosterone levels.

Ultimately, the restrictions enforced upon her saw her step away from racing and while speaking to publicise her book launch, she’s made it clear how badly she feels she was treated and questions vigorously why her treatment has been so different to that of other female athletes. 

She is, she says, “not going to be ashamed of being different”, and will “fight for what is right” in her eligibility dispute.

It is a battle that remains ongoing.

There is, however, a distinctly Scottish angle to Semenya’s story and this current stance, which sees Semenya barred from competing as a female unless she takes testosterone-reducing medication, is coming too late for Lynsey Sharp.

The former European 800m champion from Edinburgh’s career is entirely intertwined with Semenya’s.

Indeed, ask many observers who the athlete they associate most closely with Sharp is and, despite the now 33-year-old having won a raft of international medals, plenty will say Semenya.

The reason for such a close association is the pair’s careers ran parallel, with only six months in age between them and Semenya present in almost all of Sharp’s major global finals.

And it has turned out that Sharp’s most famous post-race interview was about Semenya.

The Scot was interviewed literally minutes after completing one of the biggest races of her career; the 800m final at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Sharp was asked about Semenya, who won gold, commenting that she felt it was “difficult to compete against Caster”. She had also previously stated that there were “two separate races”, referring to athletes with hyperandrogenism and that it was “obvious” there were athletes with heightened testosterone competing in her event.

The backlash was fierce.

At the time, and for months and even years afterwards, Sharp was the target of considerable abuse as a result of her comments, despite the Scot being incredibly wary of commenting on Semenya personally and, in the aftermath of that Olympic final in 2016 in which she finished sixth behind Semenya, released a statement which said: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Caster. She is someone who I talk to regularly on the circuit. 

“When asked on live TV, I felt I gave an honest and diplomatic response.”

Nothing particularly inflammatory there, you’d have thought.

But Sharp was slaughtered, particularly on social media, with things going so far, she even received death threats.

The thing with Sharp is, she was, and remains, literally the perfect person to comment on this issue.

Firstly, she has been directly affected by this; her results would unquestionably have been better were the current rules in place for the duration of her career.

Secondly, Sharp wrote her university dissertation on hyperandrogenism.

And in a world where elite athletes are media trained to within an inch of their lives, there has to always be a place for someone like Sharp who is intelligent, articulate and informed to give her opinion, whether it’s a welcome opinion or not.

Semenya clearly still harbours ill-feeling towards Sharp and in her book, describing the Scot as one of her “most hostile rivals”.

But the revisionist version of Semenya’s career, and Sharp’s feelings towards the South African, will present the Scot in a far more sympathetic light than many viewed her first time around. 

Opinion amongst many experts is now shifting towards the view that Semenya should not be permitted to compete alongside females, something that Sharp seemed to believe during her career.

Whichever side of the fence you stand on – believing that Semenya is biologically male and shouldn’t be allowed to compete or that she is the victim in all of this and has lost much of her career as a successful female athlete to this dispute – there are few who would dispute this entire situation has been handled diabolically.

The authorities treated Semenya, as an individual, disgracefully and whichever way you look at it, there’s absolutely no way she should have been forced to endure things like internal examinations.

But it’s becoming clear that the South African is not the only one who was treated poorly in this period.

The way the debate has moved on regarding Semenya highlights that the treatment dished out to Sharp was also entirely unjustified.

It’s impossible to gauge how much the backlash to her comments on Semenya affected Sharp at the time, or continues to bother her.

But what’s becoming clear, now several years have passed, is that no aspect of Semenya’s case has been handled well.

And unfortunately, as is so often the case, it’s the athletes who bear the brunt of the damage.