The Interconnected Histories of Endocrinology and Eligibility in Women's Sport

Horm Res Paediatr. 2018;90(4):213-220. doi: 10.1159/000493646. Epub 2018 Oct 18.


This report illustrates the links between history, sport, endocrinology, and genetics to show the ways in which historical context is key to understanding the current conversations and controversies about who may compete in the female category in elite sport. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) introduced hyperandrogenemia regulations for women's competitions in 2011, followed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the 2012 Olympics. The policies concern female athletes who naturally produce higher-than-average levels of testosterone and want to compete in the women's category. Hyperandrogenemia guidelines are the current effort in a long series of attempts to determine women's eligibility scientifically. Scientific endeavors to control who may participate as a woman illustrate the impossibility of neatly classifying competitors by sex and discriminate against women with differences of sex development (also called intersex by some).

Keywords: Differences of sex development; Gender verification; Hyperandrogenemia; Sex determination; Sport.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / blood*
  • Sexism / prevention & control
  • Sports / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Sports Medicine* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sports Medicine* / standards
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Testosterone