Study finds trans female athletes retain advantage over women even with hormone therapy

Let’s kick off the 2021 news cycle for transgender issues with something from the “Duh. No Kidding” department. A new study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that should prompt the International Olympic Committee to take yet another look at its policies regarding transgender athletes, or at least the “male to female” participants. Under the most recent changes to the rules, men who “identify” as women are allowed to compete against actual female athletes provided they have completed one year of hormone therapy. This study, conducted using medical data from U.S. Air Force members over a period of five years, indicates that while female hormone therapy does degrade the athletic performance of males over time, they still retain consistently measurable advantages over their female (or “cisgender”) counterparts. The study’s lead author suggests that two years of therapy is probably “more realistic,” but as we’ll see in a moment, even that’s not very conclusive. (NBC News)

A new study suggests transgender women maintain an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers even after a year on hormone therapy.

The results, published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, could mean the current one-year waiting period for Olympic athletes who are transitioning is inadequate.

“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, a pediatrician and the director of the adolescent medicine training program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “At one year, the trans women on average still have an advantage over the cis women,” he said, referring to cisgender, or nontransgender, women.

The authors of this comprehensive study were able to use the medical records of 29 female to male and 46 male to female service members and compare the results of their annual physical readiness tests. While our troops aren’t all athletes at the Olympic level, they are in generally better physical shape than most of the general population, so it seems like one of the best opportunities to study these questions that we’ve seen to date.

The results were pretty much what you’d expect if you’ve been paying attention to this subject and are applying any common sense. As far as calisthenics go, even after two years of hormone therapy, the male to female trans troops were still able to do ten percent more pushups and six percent more situps than the women. The difference on the track was more stark. In a 1.5-mile running event, the trans troops were still 12% faster than the women on average after two years of hormones. That’s not a minor difference. It’s insane. Most track events at the Olympics come down to a small fraction of a second in sprinting events and only a few seconds at most in the longer hauls. A difference of more than ten percent is, well… a world of difference. The calisthenics are probably a good measure of overall body strength and would apply to many other sporting events. The difference was in the same range.

Whether it’s scholastic sports or the Olympics, this really shouldn’t be a debate between one year of hormone therapy or two. It should be over whether boys or men, with the inherent physical advantages they have over girls and women, should be competing against them at all. For athletes who spend the majority of their early lives growing up and developing normally as males before “transitioning,” they will have already developed a more robust bone structure, greater muscle mass and the rest of the typical differences seen between males and females. The introduction of significant quantities of unnatural hormones into them will shave some points off of their scores to be certain, but the advantage is not erased.

If adult females want to pump their bodies full of testosterone and can find a doctor willing to do it, then let them compete against the men if they really want to. It’s your body, so feel free. But when you go in the other direction, you endanger the entire concept of competitive female sports. If that’s going to be the case, we might as well not even have a female division in sporting events. You can just let the men win everything.