The most widely cited study on transgender athlete performance was garbage

We’ve covered a number of stories here about transgender male athletes “identifying” as women who dominate actual women in competitive sports. The most frequent pushback we get on these reports comes in the form of people pointing to a study conducted by Joanna Harper, a scientist and long-distance runner who also transitioned from being a male. The study she conducted supposedly showed that these males were performing significantly more poorly following hormone therapy and were not a definitive threat to the actual female runners, nor did they demonstrate an insurmountable advantage in track and field events.

There are, however, a number of problems with her study if you look into the details, and the Daily Caller not only investigated this but spoke to Harper about these issues The first glaring error was the size of this study. It consisted of only eight subjects who were self-reporting their performances online.

Those who argue transgender athletes should be allowed to compete with women often cite the work of Joanna Harper as evidence that biological men who suppress their testosterone levels do not have an unfair competitive advantage against women. But the study really doesn’t prove anything from a scientific standpoint.

Harper freely admits this. “I’m certainly not suggesting that one study of eight athletes in one sport is in any sense a definitive study,” Harper told The Daily Caller. “But it was a start, and it’s got people interested in doing more research. There’s probably ten, twenty more years, probably, of work that needs to be done on this, but we’ve started.”

Aside from only including eight athletes in a single sport, the collection of the data was shoddy. The online participation allowed for no direct, third-party verification of the race results being reported. Harper herself was unable to verify half of the results for six out of the eight subjects. Most of them submitted times from races of different lengths rather than offering matching criteria for testing. And, as alluded to above, all eight of the subjects were volunteers. There was no random selection done and no control group to compare them against.

There are plenty more issues with this study that you can read at the link, but that’s not the only alarming thing about this story. As the DC notes, this wasn’t just some private study that’s being bandied about as fodder for social media spats. Harper is listed as a participant in the 2015 International Olympic Committee meeting where they set the current rules for transgender athlete participation and her study was the basis for that. Thanks to international groups using this as a baseline, we now have men “identifying” as women dominating sports including track, bicycling, weightlifting, wrestling and more.

The IOC and the other international sports federations need to get a handle on this. Women’s competitive sports is being turned into a mockery and too many young girls are being discouraged from trying to compete after seeing some boys come along and blow them all out the tournament. Perhaps they could start by commissioning a scientifically valid study to replace the one being discussed here. The results might wind up opening some eyes. In the meantime, they could consider adding events that are specific to transgender and intersex athletes. It would at least be a start.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022