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The University of Southampton
Growth Hormone 2004 Project

The Controversial IAAF & IOC Hyperandrogenism Regulations

Airinė Palšytė

In 2011 before the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) both introduced regulations instituting eligibility regulations on women athletes with naturally-elevated testosterone levels.The IAAF regulations cause female athletes with endogenous testosterone levels above 10 nmol/L to be suspended or to be banned outright from competition unless they undergo medical intervention to lower their testosterone levels.

Endocrine profiles from a sub-set of elite athletes taking part in the original GH-2000 project showed a wide range of testosterone levels in both male and female elite athletes. These data showed a complete overlap of serum testosterone between elite men and women, effectively calling into question the notion of a “normal range” of testosterone which underlies the IAAF regulations ().

The hyperandrogenism regulations generated extensive commentary and debate in the academic literature. We, together with a number of international experts, published a robust critique of the regulations and certain papers reporting their implementation ().

Subsequently a 19 year-old Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who was declared ineligible to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games pursuant to the IAAF regulations, appealed to the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Represented Pro Bono by a team of Canadian lawyers and international scientists and experts, Ms Chand challenged both her suspension from competition and the legality of the regulations.

Dutee Chand
Dutee Chand

Professor Peter Sönksen and Professor Richard Holt jointly compiled an expert report for submission to CAS.

The hearing before CAS was held in March 2015 and the ruling published in July. The CAS ruled that the IAAF regulations are discriminatory and that there exists a lack of scientific evidence on the magnitude of competitive advantage that hyperandrogenism confers on female athletes. The CAS reinstated Dutee Chand and ordered suspension of the hyperandrogenism regulations for two years. If after this time the IAAF cannot adduce the required scientific evidence to justify the regulations then they will be declared invalid.


(1) Healy ML, Gibney J, Pentecost C, Wheeler MJ, Sonksen PH. Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the postcompetition setting. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2014 March 5.

(2) Sonksen P, Ferguson-Smith MA, Bavington LD, Holt RI, Cowan DA, Catlin DH, Kidd B, Davis G, Davis P, Edwards L, Tamar-Mattis A. Medical and Ethical Concerns Regarding Women with Hyperandrogenism and Elite Sport. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015 January 14;jc20143206.

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