New rules to reduce naturally high testosterone levels in female athletes have been branded “unscientific”.[In 2018], 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.
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.
Writing in an editorial in the BMJ, Dr Sheree Bekker, from the University of Bath, and Prof Cara Tannenbaum, from the University of Montreal, say the IAAF’s regulations risked “setting an unscientific precedent for other cases of genetic advantage”.
“The medical profession does not define biological sex or physical function by serum testosterone levels alone,” they say.
And they warned that the proposed rules could have “far reaching implications” on individuals and societies.
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