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What do we do about women athletes with testes?
  1. Melanie Joy Newbould
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melanie Joy Newbould, Department of Paediatric Histopathology, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, 4th Floor, RMCH, CMFT, Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester M13 9WL, UK; melanie.newbould{at}


Elite sport and the measures imposed to prevent ‘men’ from ‘cheating’ by posing as women in women's events cast interesting light on notions of sex and gender. Some women have testes, organs that produce testosterone, because they are trans women or they have an intersex state. Testosterone is recognised as a performance-enhancing substance in at least some circumstances, and therefore, women with testes may possess an advantage when competing in some sport against women without testes, though this has never been subjected to rigorous scientific testing. The International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federation have decreed that such individuals can compete only if they undergo medical and surgical treatment, which is likely to mean gonadectomy. This might be considered to impose an unethical demand on the individual concerned and constitute an infringement of bodily autonomy for that individual. It also suggests a binary view of sex/gender that is simplistic and not scientifically accurate. I discuss this approach and consider alternative methods of approaching the problem of women with testes in athletics.

  • Sexuality/Gender
  • Women

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