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Serum androgen levels and their relation to performance in track and field: mass spectrometry results from 2127 observations in male and female elite athletes

Abstract

Objective To describe and characterise serum androgen levels and to study their possible influence on athletic performance in male and female elite athletes.

Methods 2127 observations of competition best performances and mass spectrometry-measured serum androgen concentrations, obtained during the 2011 and 2013 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships, were analysed in male and female elite track and field athletes. To test the influence of serum androgen levels on performance, male and female athletes were classified in tertiles according to their free testosterone (fT) concentration and the best competition results achieved in the highest and lowest fT tertiles were then compared.

Results The type of athletic event did not influence fT concentration among elite women, whereas male sprinters showed higher values for fT than male athletes in other events. Men involved in all throwing events showed significantly (p<0.05) lower testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin than men in other events. When compared with the lowest female fT tertile, women with the highest fT tertile performed significantly (p<0.05) better in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault with margins of 2.73%, 2.78%, 1.78%, 4.53%, and 2.94%, respectively. Such a pattern was not found in any of the male athletic events.

Conclusion Female athletes with high fT levels have a significant competitive advantage over those with low fT in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault.

  • Athletic performance
  • Androgens
  • Female
  • Testosterone
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