Athletics governing body the IAAF has halved transgender female athletes’ allowed testosterone levels in new regulations.
Competitors must now keep their levels of natural testosterone below five nanomoles per litre of blood in order to compete in the female category, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The IAAF’s previous limit for natural testosterone levels was 10 nanomoles.
The athlete must demonstrate that her testosterone levels have been less than five nanomoles continuously for at least 12 months prior to her being declared eligible.
And she must keep below that level to maintain eligibility to compete in the female category.
Also, a transgender female athlete is no longer required to be recognised by law in her new gender. But under the new rules she must provide a signed declaration of her female gender identity.
Caster Semenya testosterone case makes headlines
The new limit is the same as the one that applies to athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD). This includes cisgender female runner Caster Semenya.
The two-time Olympic 800 metre champion made headlines for her naturally elevated testosterone levels.
Semenya challenged the IAAF’s rules ordering her to take testosterone-reducing medication in order to compete in track events 400m or longer.
Semenya was told by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – who upheld an IAAF ruling in May – she must take testosterone suppressing medication. The CAS ruled the regulations are necessary to ensure fair competition.
However the athlete appealed, claiming the ruling violates her human rights.
Her legal team say the IAAF is discriminating against Semenya over her natural, genetic traits. They said the CAS ruling failed to consider medical protocols and the uncertain health consequences of the medication. Semenya said while on the medication she suffered fevers and abdominal pain.
Intersex advocates criticised the ruling at the time as humiliating, unfair and discriminatory.
Study finds testosterone boosts athletic performance and endurance
Meanwhile, a new study has confirmed testosterone significantly increases endurance and lean muscle mass among young women, even over a relatively short period, The Guardian reported.
In the study, researchers randomly assigned 48 women daily treatment with either 10mg of testosterone cream or 10mg of a placebo for 10 weeks.
The researchers tested the hormone’s impact on the women’s aerobic performance. They found running time to exhaustion increased significantly by 21.17 seconds (8.5%) in the testosterone group.
The women given the hormone also saw significant changes in lean muscle mass.
“This hasn’t been demonstrated previously because most studies have been performed in men,” lead researcher Angelica Hirschberg said.
“Furthermore, the study shows the magnitude of performance enhancement by testosterone. Testosterone levels increased more than four times but were still much below the male range.
“The improvement in endurance performance by the increased testosterone levels was over 8%. This is a huge effect in sports.”
The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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