New research reveals that even after one year of using "feminizing" hormones, males who identify as transgender continue to have a competitive advantage over female athletes.
The study was published in December in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Some say the relevant International Olympic Committee's rules regarding trans-identifying athletes are not adequate as current regulations require a one-year waiting period for athletes taking cross-sex hormones as part of a medicalized gender-transition.
“For the Olympic level, the elite level, I'd say probably two years is more realistic than one year,” said the study's lead author, Dr. Timothy Roberts, according to NBC News. Roberts is a pediatrician who directs the adolescent medicine training program at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
After a year on hormones, trans-identifying athletes who are biologically male continue to have an advantage over women, he said.
Linda Blade, a founding member of the group Save Women's Sports and an athletic coach from Alberta, Canada, told The Christian Post in an email Thursday that male and female bodies are fundamentally different and no amount of hormones can change that.
"This study indicates that a one-year reduction in testosterone by a trans-ID male does little to eliminate the physical features acquired throughout childhood and puberty that offer immense competitive advantage," Blade said.
"It is clear that no amount hormonal reduction or time in that state will cause reduction in structural enhancement such as bone size, heart size, neural adaptations, blood volume, lung capacity, upper body strength and other attributes that impact sport performance," she added, noting that her group hopes IOC will amend its policies to preserve women’s sports for female athletes.
Together with two other physicians, Roberts did a retrospective review of medical records and fitness tests from the Air Force's fitness assessment of 75 trans-identifying people of both sexes over the course of five years. That assessment includes the number of pushups and sit-ups performed in one minute and the time it takes to run 1.5 miles.
Researchers also reviewed the records as to when the athletes started taking cross-sex hormones and the days from when their hormone levels reached the normal adult range for someone of the opposite sex.
Before hormone use, males who identify as female performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in 1 min and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster than females. During the first two years of hormone use, males who identify as female were able to do 10% more pushups and 6% more sit-ups than females. Following the two-year mark those numbers became "fairly equivalent," Roberts told NBC.
When it comes to running, however, even after two years of taking hormones, males who identify as female were still 12% faster.
The issue of males in women's sports has risen to the fore of political debate in recent years as transgender-identifying people have become more visible and have claimed in various arenas that policies that are sex-based, such as female-only sports, are discriminatory on the basis of "gender identity."
Last year, the state of Idaho became the first state in the nation to enact a law, the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, preserving sex-segregated athletics for females. The statute has been contested and is presently being litigated in federal court.
The law's constitutionality is set to be adjudicated at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower district court issued an injunction against the statute, asserting that the ban on transgender-identified athletes “stands in stark contrast to the policies of elite athletic bodies that regulate sports both nationally and globally.”