Earlier this month, we celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This year, 2022, also marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which helped to facilitate the establishment of women’s sports programs. It seems ironic, then, that women’s achievements in sports are in greater danger now than ever before.
What is threatening women’s achievements in sports? A failure on the part of the athletic establishment to acknowledge the simple fact that the very real differences between men and women matter. In sports, testosterone suppression for men can never fully mitigate male advantages.
This isn’t just a matter of opinion. This is what science has demonstrated over and over again. In almost every sport, biological males have a powerful advantage over biological females.
In the journal Sports Medicine, a 2021 study reported that “the performance gap between males and females becomes significant at puberty and often amounts to 10-50% depending on sport.” The same study also noted that the International Olympic Committee standards then in effect for male athletes, which required males competing in women’s categories to have a testosterone level less than 10nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to and during competition with women, are inadequate in leveling the playing field.
The study notes, “Longitudinal studies examining the effects of testosterone suppression on muscle mass and strength in transgender women consistently show very modest changes, where the loss of lean body mass, muscle area, and strength typically amounts to approximately 5% after 12 months of treatment. Thus, the muscular advantage enjoyed by transgender women is only minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed.” So, even with testosterone suppression, male athletes still possess an advantage.
Here’s another example. In an expert affidavit given by Gregory Brown, a professor of exercise science at the University of Nebraska, he writes:
“Suppressing testosterone secretion and administering estrogen in post-pubescent males does not shrink body height to that of a comparably aged female, nor does it reduce lung size or heart size … Thus, while gender transition procedures may impair a male’s athletic potential, in my opinion it is still highly unlikely to be reduced to that of a comparably aged and trained female.”
These results do not bode well for ADF clients like Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith, and Ashley Nicoletti of Connecticut and Madison Kenyon and Mary Kate Marshall of Idaho. All of them competed and won in track and field events for years against other females but have recently been forced to compete against males. Nor does it bode well for women in other sports such as Lainey Armistead of West Virginia (another ADF client), who plays soccer.
Recent examples have made clear what happens when we deny the realities of biological sex. Last month, a male swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania competing in women’s events finished 38 seconds ahead of the closest competitor in the 1,650-yard freestyle event.
That’s one less medal, one less accolade, one less title, one less opportunity to be noticed for a scholarship or by a college recruiter, one less chance for a woman to be honored for the hard work and competitive drive that she has put into her sport.
But this isn’t just about men in women’s sports. These lost opportunities can harm women in other areas of life too. One global survey found that 94% of senior female executives played competitive sports. Destroying girls’ athletic opportunities now can hurt their professional opportunities as adults. In addition, gender identity ideology is denying women and girls fair and safe treatment in other areas of life like bathrooms, prisons, women’s shelters, and other sex-specific spaces where biological differences matter.
This is why ADF has filed or intervened in multiple lawsuits to protect women’s sports:
When our laws and society ignore the real differences between men and women, it’s often women who pay the price. We need reality-based laws that honor those differences. A male’s belief about his gender doesn’t erase his physical advantages over female athletes.