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IAAF finds elevated testosterone provides a significant advantage in sport

(41 Posts)
QuentinSummers Tue 04-Jul-17 19:29:38

No shit sherlock

Interestingly the statement refers a lot to "females" and protecting "female participation" so perhaps this is the start of a reversion to sports being sex rather than gender based.
On the radio they reported that some commentators are already calling it biological racism however.

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 04-Jul-17 19:44:52

"No shit sherlock"

I was about to post something fairly similar to this, but you've already expressed how I feel about it Quentin. I imagine they'll face an aggressive backlash about this.

Rufustherenegadereindeer1 Tue 04-Jul-17 21:21:19

Just said the same to dh

Well who knew??

AnyFucker Tue 04-Jul-17 21:22:48

My flabber is gasted

HeyRoly Tue 04-Jul-17 21:25:08

I made the mistake of reading the FB comments that accompanied the article. People (well, men) tripping overthemselves to say that Semenya is a WOMAN and should be allowed to compete as one, and what next, banning athletes for being TALL because that's an advantage and they can't help that either?

Totally. Missing. The. Point.

Floralnomad Tue 04-Jul-17 21:30:33

About time , I really don't think they needed the study , they could have just watched the diamond league - it's a joke.

TheSmallClangerWhistlesAgain Tue 04-Jul-17 21:39:13

For Caster Semenya and other intersex athletes, there isn't really a solution that is fair for everyone. As I understand it, Caster did not know about her intersex condition until she had won at least one title.

It is fair on the other women athletes, though, and it's a useful pushback against potential MtT interlopers.

VestalVirgin Tue 04-Jul-17 22:00:55

Oh, really? Elevated testosterone provides a significant advantage? Who would have thought?

Surely we had no way of knowing this ... even though athletes are known to take testosterone for exactly that purpose?


Bad for Caster Semenya, and I am actually on the fence about actually female-bodied athletes who have higher testosterone levels because of PCOS or something, (though I suppose that'd be treated anyway) - there aren't so many of them that they'd push other women out of the sport.

But I hope people will realize that male bodies also provide a significant advantage, no matter how low the current testosterone level.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Tue 04-Jul-17 22:14:48

PCOS doesn't raise your testosterone that much, Vestal - from about 1 nmol/litre to about 2.5. The bottom of the male range/top of the female range prior to the Dutee Chand case was 10nmol/litre, so you really have to have huge amounts of testosterone (5 standard deviations above the average female level, even including women with PCOS) before you cross that threshold.

I feel very sorry for Caster Semenya, she's been dealt a shitty hand in life. But it really is one of those awful situations where there's no fair solution for everyone, and we either allow intersex athletes to compete with a massive inbuilt advantage such that biological females have no chance of getting anywhere, or we make intersex athletes lower their testosterone to typical female levels.

I know a lot of people on here are suspicious of Joanna Harper's work because she's trans, but everything I've read in terms of interviews/statements by her seems fairly sensible (although I differ on issues like height in basket ball players) - her line is that testosterone levels may not be perfect, but they're the best guide we've got, and we just make the playing field as level as we can. (Harper incidentally is a sports scientist who advised the IAC).

scottishdiem Tue 04-Jul-17 22:29:13

I think its good for women athletes when it comes to men transitioning and coming into their sports.

With regards to Caster Semenya I think that her natural advantages are exactly that. Natural. Her body gives her performance boosts the same way as athletes with certain types of muscle fibers have natural advantages. Or a physiological one with a body shape that is naturally superior to other competitors (Bolt and Phelps). A higher level of testosterone in her system doesn't automatically make her a faster runner. She still has to train long and hard.

If we get to a position that says someone needs to take drugs or cant compete because they are not female enough that just opens the door to saying someone can take drugs or have surgery and become female enough. Which is not a good thing really.

(as an aside, the three white women blanking the three black medalists in the 800m at Rio was a really bad look).

HeyRoly Tue 04-Jul-17 22:40:08

I disagree scottish. Caster Semenya's advantage may be "natural", as in an accident of birth (as opposed to actual doping) but as an intersex person, the advantage gained from such massively elevated testosterone levels far surpasses your comparison with fast-twitch muscle fibres. Not is it the same as comparing the advantages of certain physiological attributes (Phelps/Bolt).

Fundamentally, Caster Semenya may have been raised as female, but she is not female. She is intersex. And no non-intersex competitor of hers could hope to come even close to her times. Hence why the 800m podium features three intersex athletes in Rio last year.

Why is it a good thing for female athletes to have men transitioning and entering their events, incidentally?

Floralnomad Tue 04-Jul-17 22:52:40

Totally disagree scottish , no one is saying she , and the others don't do the training etc , but in the period after the original furore about her when she had to take testosterone lowering drugs her performances were much worse and the times 3/4 seconds slower . As soon as she stopped taking the medication her times shot up , the only reasonable explanation for that is the rise in testosterone . I have great sympathy for Semenya , and the others but at the moment it's unfair on the majority and it makes the sport a mockery to most regular viewers .

scottishdiem Tue 04-Jul-17 22:55:24

I meant that the research is good in terms of showing why having men transitioning to female athletes is going to be unfair when it comes to entrance into events.

I have huge concerns about the idea that there is a level beyond which it is natural for a woman to be a woman. For young athletes we are already seeing survey designed to bring a person into a set standard of what it means to be a woman.

soapboxqueen Tue 04-Jul-17 23:01:19

Even if we said someone like Semenya should compete and that her elevated levels of testosterone were just natural variation, how do we police that and protect young girls? Can anti-doping labs tell the difference between naturally and artificially high levels?

sparechange Tue 04-Jul-17 23:04:17

Well colour me surprised...

Sadly, it will be a flash in the pan (and press) and be forgotten about in a few weeks

scottishdiem Tue 04-Jul-17 23:05:36

Its unfair on the majority that Bolt had his physiology. No-one on their best day was close to being able to beat him on his best day. Same with Phelps.

In the 800m in Rio tearful Lynsey Sharp was 2 seconds off Semenya. Had she ran in 2008 she would have been 3 seconds off Pamela Jelimo. Would she have cried then?

DJBaggySmalls Tue 04-Jul-17 23:29:10

Nezt, following bears round the woods with a bucket.

BlindYeo Wed 05-Jul-17 00:48:46

It's missing the point Scottish to talk about Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

Women's athletics is a specific artificial category to divide men from women because on average men are considerably faster and stronger then women.

Similarly, sports like boxing and judo are divided into artificial weight categories so that smaller/lighter athletes can still have the experience of competing and winning.

Swimming doesn't happen to have any further categorisation systems mostly because it's not a contact sport ,although it could do if people felt it was important enough. The point is it doesn't at present so Michael Phelps isn't breaching a category by having large feet or whatever.

The trans and intersex problem in sport is the breaching of a pre-existing, agreed artificial division among male and female competitors which was created precisely because of biological differences. It renders the category pointless, like allowing a heavyweight boxer into a bantamweight category because they say they feel very light.

I agree with the pp who said it's not just about testosterone either. It's about bodies that have been through male puberty and will therefore retain all the other general advantages of male puberty such as musculature, height, skeletal frame, pelvic angle, proportion of fast twitch fires and so on, even if you then reduce testosterone levels afterwards.

Genuine intersex athletes could have their own medal category, surely that would be a fair solution. That 800m race podium was a bad moment for women's sport. Transgender male to female athletes, sorry no, compete with your biological sex unless you took puberty blockers.

VestalVirgin Wed 05-Jul-17 02:34:21

Can anti-doping labs tell the difference between naturally and artificially high levels?

Since M0stly pointed out that PCOS does not elevate testosterone levels that much ... just ban everyone with levels over a certain point, as it'd would have to be either doping or an intersex condition.

(Or perhaps a hormone producing tumor, in which case surely the athlete would be happy to know about it ...)

Datun Wed 05-Jul-17 06:52:54


As far as I know, they made the maximum level far higher than any woman could achieve. Which is how transwomen get to compete.

I don't know if they did that include people like Castor or transwomen.

But it would seem to be the obvious solution.

Although, of course, transwomen would have benefited from naturally producing testerone anyway, even if the levels are subsequently lowered.

soapboxqueen Wed 05-Jul-17 10:19:42

Vestal my point was, if we allowed people with naturally high levels of testosterone to compete, such as people with intersex conditions. How would differentiate between them and some random woman artificially improving her performance with testosterone. Would it even be fair to stop women from taking testosterone if the range of acceptable levels is so much higher? We allow men with low testosterone levels to supplement. If that being the case, how do we stop the damage that would be done to these women in the name of sporting success? How do we protect young girls who are identified by their governments as having sporting talent from being pumped full of testosterone in order to win?

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Wed 05-Jul-17 18:48:33

The three athletes who won the 800m in Rio were, to my understanding, all males with AIS. Whilst I can understand that having AIS can lead to a person growing up fully believing that they are female, the fact is that genetically they are male and will retain some biological advantages although not the same as a man who has experienced a full male puberty.

Dutee Chand as a contrast has hyperandrogenism which, whilst controversial due to elevated testosterone levels, is still a condition impacting biological females.

To be true to the idea of sex segregated sports then we'd include all females (XX or variations thereof) and exclude all males (XY or variations thereof) regardless of any hormonal or endocrinological issues.

soapboxqueen Wed 05-Jul-17 19:32:14

So would we only accept females with a diagnosable condition to explain elevated testosterone levels? Could we differentiate between them and those claiming a diagnosable condition in order to take extra testosterone for performance purposes?

scottishdiem Wed 05-Jul-17 23:19:25


"If an athlete like Semenya failed the initial hormone screen, she’d be examined in more detail to see if her testosterone was “functional” enough to give her an advantage. How would the doctors figure out if her testosterone was functional? They’d check how much of it was bound to her receptors, screen her for known mutations in those same receptors, weigh the hoarseness of her voice, rate the development of her pubic hair and breasts, evaluate her muscles, size her labia, palpate her vagina, and measure her anogenital distance. In other words, they’d try to calculate the degree to which she’d been virilized—or one might say, made “manly”—by her intersex condition."

Also, as seen on twitter, [we] know Semenya is a woman because people are trying to control her body.

Datun Thu 06-Jul-17 06:36:03


They do all that? They don't just check her testosterone levels and come up with a number?

How do they apply that same criteria to transwomen?

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