World Athletics study fail

A few years ago governing body World Athletics commissioned a study that examined the relationship between high testosterone levels in women athletes and their performance. The study, which appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017, paved the way for the organisation to introduce a highly contested rule in 2019: women athletes must take medication to suppress their testosterone levels if they want to participate in World Athletics sporting events. That rule scuppered our star athlete Caster Semenya’s chance to compete at the 2021 Olympics and defend her 800m title. 

Now the study’s authors have issued a correction, saying their work was “exploratory” and does not prove that there IS a causal effect between high testosterone and performance in women. So, back to the international stage for our Caster? Nope, or at least not right now: South African sports scientist Ross Tucker has pointed out that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where Semenya took a complaint against World Athletics after the new rule was introduced, already knew that the study was flawed and lacked evidence. Semenya, who – quite rightly, we say – refuses to take medication to suppress her testosterone levels, has also taken her fight to the European Court of Human Rights. 💪🏽    

We would say World Athletics ought to hang its head in shame, but the organisation has proven before that it doesn’t seem to have any when it comes to policing women’s bodies. We’re 100% Team Caster.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 26 August 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.