Testing Testosterone Is A Waste Of Time

Delineating gender in sport is not that easy

How we choose who competes in women’s sport is a difficult question that we’ve yet to answer well

Gendered Athleticism

Gender is complicated in elite sport. We’ve decided arbitrarily that the biggest biological advantage one person can have over another is being a man, and separated elite sport into men versus men and women versus women.

It’s a big advantage: 4/5 beard competitions are won by men

Testing Testosterone

In 2015 the idea that testosterone levels could be used to delineate who could compete in women’s athletics was successfully challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They ruled that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that having a ‘high’ level of testosterone gave women a significant enough advantage that it would be unfair to allow them to compete.

Pictured: ‘High’ that is not open to debate

The Study

The study itself is pretty basic: the researchers took 2100 athletes, 1300 female and 800 male, divided them up by their levels of testosterone, gender, and athletic event (i.e. 100m sprint). This left them with a total of 132 groups: there were 43 athletic events between the male and female athletics, and 3 testosterone levels in each (low, medium and high).

Flipping A Coin

There’s an old adage that doing lots of tests in statistics is a bit like flipping a coin: if you do it enough times, you’ll eventually see heads.

Pictured: statistics
You don’t have to guess, because they said it in the paper
Here are all the tests they ran. Have a look and spot the ‘significant’ ones

Athletic Madness

So we know that these tests probably weren’t significant. Something more important to ask is why these 5 tests matter anyway?



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