The use and misuse of sex chromatin screening for 'gender identification' of female athletes

JAMA. 1986 Oct 10;256(14):1920-3. doi: 10.1001/jama.256.14.1920.


According to the rules of sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, competitors registered as females must undergo a "gender verification" test that consists of screening with sex chromatin, followed by further tests in those with an abnormal or inconclusive result. The aims of the gender verification test have not been published but presumably they are to exclude from women's sports events males or other individuals whose muscle strength or body build gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors. It is shown herein that the sex chromatin screening method reveals only a small proportion of such individuals. Moreover, women with certain congenital chromosome abnormalities and other abnormal conditions without increased muscle strength are found to have "abnormal" sex chromatin. Thus, the present screening method is both inaccurate and discriminatory. It is proposed that the aims of gender identification should be defined and methods chosen that achieve the desired result.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Doping in Sports
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Sex Chromatin*
  • Sex Chromosome Aberrations / diagnosis
  • Sex Determination Analysis*
  • Sports*