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
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Contributors SB was involved in the study design, statistical analysis and manuscript drafting. PYG was involved in the study design, data collection, and manuscript drafting.
Funding This study was supported by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Disclaimer SB is a medical and scientific consultant for the IAAF and a member of the IAAF and IOC working groups on hyperandrogenic female athletes and transgender athletes and for that purpose appeared as a witness in the Dutee Chand vs IAAF CAS case. PYG is the director of the IAAF Health and Science Department and has no other relevant financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The endocrine part of the data can be shared on an anonymous basis. However, the performance part of the data which is linked to the endocrine part cannot be shared since it could allow individuals to be identified and constitutes a breach of confidentiality.