University of Brighton scientists are researching how to resolve international controversy over whether transgender sportswomen are competing fairly.
Professor Yannis Pitsiladis and colleagues are conducting a study of more than 40 individuals going through transition, with the aim of determining the fairest way of integrating transgender athletes into elite sport.
Testosterone increases muscle mass and under International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines athletes who have transitioned from male to female are required to keep their levels of testosterone under 10 nanomoles per litre.
Some top athletes are questioning the current limit. Paula Radcliffe, Dame Kelly Holmes and Sharron Davies, are campaigning for the IOC to provide more data on the “residual benefits” of being a transgender athlete and whether the testosterone level is appropriate.
Professor Pitsiladis, the University’s Professor of Sport and Exercise Science who specialises in molecular biology, physiology and bioinformatics currently is working with the IOC before it publishes updated transgender guidelines.
He is collaborating with Dr James Barrett, Lead Clinician at the Gender Identity Clinic based at London’s Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and Senior Lecturer at the Imperial College of Science and Medicine, Dr Leighton Seal, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Tavistock and Portman Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic and Reader at St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and project lead, Dr Jonathan Ospina-Betancurt, Visiting Researcher in the University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Service Management.
They will be closely monitoring 40 trans women going through the hormone treatment part of transition, using their state-of-the-art facilities at the University of Brighton’s Eastbourne campus.
Professor Pitsiladis, a member of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, said: “We are immensely proud to initiate this important research that has been designed to generate the biological data needed to inform the inclusion of transgender and intersex athletes into competitive sports that is also consistent with international law, the Olympic Charter and the rights of all.”
Dr Barrett said: “We welcome this opportunity to learn more about the effect of testosterone levels on muscle function. We are excited to work with Professor Yannis Pitsiladis and Dr Jonathan Ospina-Betancurt, informing standards that will support future transgender athletes to compete in a fair way, without the current level of negative media attention.”
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