The Testosterone Rule — Constructing Fairness in Professional Sport
Journal of Law and the Biosciences vol. 4(1) 181-193
13 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018
Date Written: 2017
The separation between males and females in professional sport is justified on the grounds of creating a level playing field between athletes and achieving “fairness”. Over the past century, scientists and policy makers struggled finding a reliable test to clearly distinguish between males and females in sports competitions. A major criteria established by a prominent sport association in 2011 suggested that athletes with testosterone levels above 10 Nmol/l will not be eligible to compete as female. This rule was highly criticized after Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was banned from competing because her body produced testosterone levels above the permitted threshold due to a condition called hyperandrogenism. After Chand appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and won, a lively debate awakened around the question of what should be the rule to demarcate between males and females in professional sport competitions, and whether or not the testosterone rule serves the objective of “fairness” in sports. After briefly reviewing the historical origins of the testosterone rule and sex-testing in organized sport, this note describes existing scientific data and its interpretations regarding sex. While maintaining that the relationship between a high testosterone level and athletic performance has not been proven, but also not refuted, the last part offers preliminary thoughts on three alternative approaches to achieve fairness in sports.
Keywords: Scientific Evidence, Fairness, Sport, Gender, Biological Sex
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