• A POSTnote on testosterone and sports performance will focus on the scientific literature that describes the relationship between sports performance and testosterone.
  • It will examine the implications for transgender athletes and athletes with DSD, and how this informs policymaking by sporting bodies.
  • It will also consider options to facilitate inclusive participation in sports and the ethical debate concerning fairness in sporting competition.
  • In production. To contribute expertise, literature or an external reviewer please email Dr Sarah Bunn.

There is an extensive research literature on the performance advantages of males across sports. Male physiological characteristics that enhance sporting performance are conferred by the effects of testosterone during puberty, and some are maintained by the hormone after adolescence. The extent to which a performance advantage is conferred by testosterone, in transwomen athletes and in female athletes with Differences in Sexual Development (DSD), is a current research question. International and domestic sporting bodies have – or are developing – policies, which seek to balance the rights of female athletes with DSD and transwomen to participate in sport with fair competition for other females. For example, the International Olympic Committee allows transwomen to compete if they reduce their testosterone levels. Similarly, World Athletics (formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF), requires female athletes with specific DSD characteristics who wish to compete in some track events in the female category to reduce their testosterone level.

This POSTnote will focus on the scientific literature that describes the relationship between sports performance and testosterone, the implications for transgender athletes and athletes with DSD, and how this informs policymaking by sporting bodies. It will also consider options to facilitate inclusive participation in sports and the ethical debate concerning fairness in sporting competition.