Duke University study refutes USA Today’s claim that biological males are not advantaged in women’s sports

An investigative report published earlier this week by USA Today claimed that there is little evidence that biological males bring insurmountable physical advantages to female sports competitions, but a new study from Duke University blows away the paper’s findings.

“Across the nation, state lawmakers supporting transgender athlete bans have painted a picture that girls sports teams will be overrun by athletes with insurmountable physical advantages,” the paper reported Wednesday.

“But a USA TODAY investigation of the lobbying effort shows that narrative has been built on vague examples that have been overstated or are untrue, and lawmakers have accepted them as fact with little effort to verify their accuracy,” the report added.

However, a study published by Duke Law found that even the most elite female athletes cannot compare to, or compete with, even non-elite biological males. What’s more, the study found that on the elite level, biological females have no hope of winning competitions against biological men.

“If you know sports, you know this beyond a reasonable doubt: there is an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females. The gap is smaller between elite females and non-elite males, but it’s still insurmountable and that’s ultimately what matters,” the paper begins.

The paper went on to note that U.S. Olympic runner Tori Bowie’s lifetime best in the 100-meter sprint in 2017 of 10.78 was beaten a total of 15,000 times by both men and boys the same year. In addition, the paper noted that Allyson Felix’s best time for the 400-meter run in the same year was 49.26, which was beaten 15,000 times by men and boys around the world in 2017 as well.

“This differential isn’t the result of boys and men having a male identity, more resources, better training, or superior discipline. It’s because they have an androgenized body,” the Duke Law paper stated.

The paper continues:

The results make clear that sex determines win share. Female athletes – here defined as athletes with ovaries instead of testes and testosterone (T) levels capable of being produced by the female, non-androgenized body – are not competitive for the win against males—here defined as athletes with testes and T levels in the male range. The lowest end of the male range is three times higher than the highest end of the female range. Consistent with females’ far lower T levels, the female range is also very narrow, while the male range is broad.

These biological differences explain the male and female secondary sex characteristics which develop during puberty and have lifelong effects, including those most important for success in sport: categorically different strength, speed, and endurance. There is no other physical, cultural, or socioeconomic trait as important as testes for sports purposes.

“The number of men and boys beating the world’s best women in the 100 and 400 meters is far from the exception. It’s the rule,” the paper added.

Conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey seized on the research paper’s findings to push back on the USA Today piece in a Twitter thread posted Thursday.

After quoting passages of the paper, Stuckey wrote: “Sorry, yall. You’re not going to win this one.”

In conclusion, the Duke researchers laid out some possible paths forward, while noting the importance of preserving the essence of female competition.

“If we want to have it all – to respect everyone’s gender identity and still to support girls’ and women’s sport by making a place for athletes with female bodies in competition – what’s the best way forward? What’s the best compromise position? Ultimately, this is the most important question for sports policymakers in this period,” they wrote.

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Jon Dougherty

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