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Proposed testosterone testing of some female olympians challenged by Stanford scientists
Date:6/13/2012

s. And beyond that, if suspicions or complaints arise about a specific female athlete something as simple as an athlete looking "too masculine" a confidential evaluation can also be initiated. This part of the policy is worrisome, the authors write, because athletes can be targeted for testing by anyone, including their competitors, based on arbitrary concerns about "masculine traits" such as too much body hair, musculature or an unusually deep voice. The resulting required evaluations would include some combination of three types of exams: a clinical exam; testing urine and blood for hormone levels; and/or a full exam that includes genetic testing, imaging and psychological testing. If testosterone levels are found to be too high, the athlete will then be required to undergo medical intervention in order to continue competing.

While such a process is supposed to protect an athlete's privacy, the ability of the governing committees to keep such testing confidential has proven difficult in the past. The high-profile, elite athletes who undergo testing are banned from competition while it is under way, leading to speculation and gossip within the media and sports world. This is what happened in 2009 in the case of Semenya, whose predicament received widespread media coverage despite claims of confidentiality.

Routine sex testing has been done in past Olympic competitions but was dropped 10 years ago because of repeated inaccuracies, stemming from its reliance on a single trait, such as chromosomes, to verify sex. The problem is similar when relying on testosterone levels alone to determine if an athlete is "too masculine" to compete.

"Individuals have dramatically different responses to the same amounts of testosterone, and it is just one element in a complex neuroendrocrine feedback system," said Rebecca Jordan-Young, co-author of the paper and associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies at Barnard College and Columbia Un
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Contact: Tracie White
traciew@stanford.edu
650-723-7628
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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