Scientific integrity and the IAAF testosterone regulations

Scientific integrity and the IAAF testosterone regulations / Roger Pielke Jr., Ross Tucker, Erik Boye. - (International Sports Law Journal (2019) 7 February ; p. 1-9, 1-2).
- (Correction)

Correction 18 April 2019 to the original article has been attached to the pdf-file.


In April 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced new regulations governing the eligibility of certain female athletes with differences of sexual development accompanied by elevated levels of natural testosterone. Such women with testosterone levels above a specific threshold would be banned from competing as females unless they were to undergo medical intervention. In this paper, we examine key elements of the scientific basis offered by IAAF in support of the regulations, based on a subset of original performance data provided to us by IAAF. We identify significant flaws in the data used by IAAF leading to unreliable results. Further, these failures have not been corrected by IAAF or the academic journal which has published them, leading to a comprehensive failure of scientific integrity. We argue that the IAAF testosterone regulations are based on a flawed scientific foundation and that this case offers more general lessons for the sport governance community on the importance of upholding the standards of scientific integrity expected in other areas of policy and regulation.

Correction to: Scientific integrity and the IAAF testosterone regulations

In this article, some minor mistakes have accidentally crept in.
These are listed below:

1. In Table 5, BG17 and BHKE18 should change positions.
2. The same it true for Fig. 2, which is attached as corrected.
3. Also, in the bullet points below the figure, please replace the first four bullet points with the following:

- For 3 of 11 running events, the performance difference between the highest and lowest tertiles decreased from BG17 to BHKE18, including in 1 of 4 of the regulated events;
- In three events, the performance difference changed from negative (high T slower than low T) to positive (high T faster than low T);
- In BHKE18, the low T tertile is faster than the high T tertile in 3 of 11 events, compared to 6 of 11 events in BG17.
- In the four regulated events, the average difference in times was increased by 0.4% in absolute terms (i.e. from 1.6 to 2.0%), and 3 of 4 meets the BHKE18 standard for statistical significance (BG17 reported 1 of 4).

None of these changes alter our analysis or conclusions, as the key point in this section was the magnitude of differences between the two studies, not the relative accuracy of one study over the other.

Original document


7 February 2019
Boye, Erik
Pielke Jr., Roger
Tucker, Ross
South Africa
United States of America
Legal Terms
Anti-Doping policy
Rules & regulations International Sports Federations
Athletics (WA) - World Athletics
Other organisations
Oslo universitetssykehus HF - Oslo University Hospital
University of Cape Town (UCT)
University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder)
Analytical aspects
Threshold for endogenous substances
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Medical terms
Endogenous production
Endogenous substance
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Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
27 March 2019
Date of last modification
10 May 2019
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