Testosterone rules for female athletes deemed 'unscientific'


EXCERPT: New rules to reduce naturally high testosterone levels in female athletes have been branded "unscientific". Last year, athletics chiefs ruled women with levels of five nanomoles per litre or more must have hormone treatment before being allowed to compete. But experts, reporting in the British Medical Journal, say there is a lack of evidence about testosterone's effects and the cut-off figure is arbitrary. A decision on the legality of the rules is expected later this month.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) delayed implementing its regulations after South African runner Caster Semenya contested the legality of the new rules. She was banned from international competitions for nearly a year for having testosterone levels above the athletics body's limit for female athletes. World athletics bosses have previously said they want to protect the sanctity of fair and open competition.

Writing in an editorial in the BMJ, Dr Sheree Bekker [...] and Prof Cara Tannenbaum [...] say the IAAF's regulations risked "setting an unscientific precedent for other cases of genetic advantage". [...] Dr Bekker and Prof Tannenbaum argue that testosterone levels vary naturally in men and women, with higher averages among elite athletes. But there is also a big crossover between men and women, with 16% of men classified as having low testosterone and 14% of women having high, according to some definitions. They say testosterone is just one indicator of sports performance and many other factors also play a role... (MORE)

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