Saturday, June 23, 2012

Science Daily: Proposed Testosterone Testing of Some Female Olympians Challenged

Dara Torres is a very beautiful woman. She is both strong and smart and if you were to see her casually one summer afternoon on the Venice boardwalk wearing a tee-shirt and a baseball cap, you may at first glance mistake her as an effeminate looking 16-year-old boy.

The arm chair scientist in me suspects that the reason why Dara Torres gets stronger and stronger as she ages is that she is developing more testosterone in her body than the average female. Yes females have testosterone!

Science Daily has published an overview of an article written by a Stanford School of Medicine bioethicist and her colleagues.

From Science Daily: 
"... Proposed Olympic policies for testing the testosterone levels of select female athletes could discriminate against women who may not meet traditional notions of femininity and distort the scientific evidence on the relationship between testosterone, sex and athletic performance, says a Stanford University School of Medicine bioethicist and her colleagues. ..." 

Here is a a great quote from the authors of the study for that masters swimmer or the triathlete who loves their sport but finishes at the bottom third of the pack:
"There are many biological reasons some athletes are better than others," the authors write, pointing to several runners and cyclists who have rare mitochondrial variations that give them extraordinary aerobic capacity, or basketball players who have acromegaly, a hormonal condition that results in exceptionally large hands and feet. Such biological differences don't cause them to be banned from competition, they write.

"It bears noting that athletes never begin on a fair playing field; if they were not exceptional in one regard or another they would not have made it to a prestigious international athletic stage," the authors note.


junker23 said...

Ah, "developing" more testosterone.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what junker23 said. Come on.

Tony Austin said...

Testosterone rises in many women when they age, Period:

Reference 1)

"... Other women may have plenty of testosterone as they age, remaining vibrant and strong. Strong women have very high testosterone levels, often approaching male levels after menopause. Doctor Lorraine Dennerstein, from Melbourne , concluded from her studies that the primary drivers for a woman's libido are her androgens, the male hormones, testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone ..."

Reference 2)

"...Postmenopausal women who have higher testosterone levels may be at greater risk of heart disease, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome compared to women with lower testosterone levels, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). ..."


Our results so far suggest that Testosterone levels may have a role in identifying postmenopausal women at risk of developing BC. These women appear to have increased/persistent adrenal gland activity compared to controls. Supported by the Jean H. Picard foundation ..."


"...higher testosterone/estradiol predicted greater semantic memory improvement (p = 0.03). In postmenopausal midlife women, endogenous estradiol and testosterone levels and the testosterone/estradiol ratio are associated with semantic memory and verbal episodic memory abilities. ..."

I have given you four references with links stating that Testosterone levels can vary greatly in women. The last reference comes from the National institute of Health Pub Yeah, my opinion is credible. Deal with it.

Canuckswimmer said...

Women don't increase their T-levels as they age Tony. Their estrogen levels naturally drop as child-bearing years are left behind and consequently they see an increase in their T/E ratio over time. That's why we have hormone therapy for some. But women don't get stronger and faster as they age. Nor, for that matter, do men. One would have to be deluded to believe so. And of course to be a world champion, when seven billion souls inhabit this planet, necessarily means those special few are guaranteed to be off the charts in at least one important aspect. Unfortunately for Torres she wasn't one of those freaks – until she came back from years of retirement to suddenly join the ranks of the world's best in her thirties.

I don't know why you're pimping for an obvious drug cheat but it sucks. Some good news though. WADA is advocating extending the holding of drug testing samples from the current eight years to fourteen. We might catch her yet.

Tony Austin said...

Some women do get an increase in testosterone as per reference number three above.

Our results so far suggest that Testosterone levels may have a role in identifying postmenopausal women at risk of developing BC. [Breast Cancer] These women appear to have increased/persistent adrenal gland activity compared to controls. Supported by the Jean H. Picard foundation ..."

Key phrase: "... increased/persistent adrenal gland activity compared to controls. ..."

junker23 said...

Oh dear. I’m afraid nearly all of your assertions here are fairly misguided and your sources poorly chosen. As a scientist-scientist* (as opposed to an armchair one) let me run through those supplied sources.

*I already had that picture uploaded, I’m not vain enough to do so just for this.

junker23 said...

Sources 2, 3 and 4 - Nothing in these articles say anything about testosterone levels rising as women get older. They all look at women with elevated levels of testosterone when compared to the average woman; but none make the claim that those testosterone levels have increased in any specific individual.

Those sources also deal with postmenopausal women, which make them significantly older than Torres. (Source 2 deals with women aged 65-98 and source 4’s mean age is 60. No age information is available in the abstract of source 3, but like the other two it states it is looking at postmenopausal women.) All three studies are also are investigating the link elevated testosterone levels may have in developing a number of diseases. None make the case that these women with higher levels of testosterone are better athletes.

junker23 said...

Source 1 - Now, this one’s a bit different. I also think it’s pretty much made up. It claims that testosterone levels in postmenopausal women are greater than those of similarly-aged men. Not that the percentage of testosterone lost is higher, but the raw total amount of testosterone is higher in women than men. I’m going to go ahead and not believe that. Pretty much all women over 40 would start growing beards if that were true, it’s just not feasible. My understanding of testosterone level as people age is that they gradually decrease over time for both sexes, with the levels found in men starting from a much higher level than in women. That’s what I remembered offhand from physiology, what I found from a quick internet search seems to validate that. ( A woman's testosterone is highest around age 20 and slowly declines till it is half as high in her 40s Source. Testosterone levels in women and men naturally and gradually decline as we age. Source.)

Your initial statement was that Dara Torres develops more testosterone than other women her same age. This very well be true – you or I have literally no way of knowing how much testosterone she has in her body. I bet she knows, but we can’t. (Unless she fails a drug test or something, then we’d know.) As that initial article you posted says, better women athletes might produce more testosterone naturally than their non-elite counterparts. This isn’t even proven, as those scientists were quoted as saying – “We don't even know what typical testosterone levels are for elite female athletes” and that The authors also contend that, even if high testosterone levels were found to be a marker of improved athletic ability, it is not reason enough to bar women with naturally occurring high levels of the hormone from competing. So, there’s pretty much no reason that your initial hypothesis of “Dara Torres has increased levels of testosterone,” would aid in her athletic ability over the last few years.

junker23 said...

Ah, I just saw your newest response. This “increased/persistent adrenal gland activity compared to controls" is describing the mechanism of how some women have more testosterone than others. Which is nothing groundbreaking – not all women will have the same amount of testosterone, just as with any other hormone. They are not saying that this increased adrenal gland activity leads to an increase in an individual woman’s testosterone, it’s just why she has more testosterone than the average woman. That gland could is still slowing down in each woman, just not at the same rate as the general population.

Tony Austin said...

Yes they do. Some women produce or have elevated testosterone.

The premise of the original blog post was that women do not have consistent testosterone readings. Numerous factors apply. Whether it be estrogen/testosterone "ratios", or otherwise.

Here is a reference from LiveStrong:

A clinical investigation by M. Fanta and co-workers published in the March 2008 edition of the medical journal "Gynecological Endocrinology" assessed younger women with unusually large amounts of testosterone. Five of the eight women tested in this study had irregular menstrual cycles. Each woman was diagnosed with nonclassic adrenal hyperplasia. While not fatal, this condition may require extended use of prescription medications.

Read more:

Tony Austin said...

As for WADA, unless they get an infusion of cash, or figure out a way to break even, they will be a ghost of what they are now let alone 14-years from now...

Tony Austin said...

As for WADA, unless they get an infusion of cash, or figure out a way to break even, they will be a ghost of what they are now let alone 14-years from now...

Canuckswimmer said...

Thank you Junkers23! After two attempts to write what you just posted only to see them disappear I had given up in disgust.

Tony Austin said...

If I am not mistaken testosterone adds in recovery it does not build muscle. When you look at her angular frame and jaw line, then compare her to the 14-old Dara photo I posted to this blog, to me that suggests; and I am not a scientist-scientist but rather a armchair or spectator "scientist."

After reading the article at Daily Science, I found other references supporting varying testosterone levels do exist or get abnormally produced and went with the article.

Now, you have the luxury and credibility of being able to critique a good study or bad. As for me, if NASA tells me that the moon Titan has a methane atmosphere rather than ethane, I take that leap of faith and believe it since they have "street cred."

If the New York tells me the same without a quote or reference, I think it is probably true, if a blogger tells me, the jury is still out. With that in mind, when studies are listed at the or Livestrong, I go with it.

junker23 said...

I mean yeah, Torres may very well be making more testosterone naturally than an average women, or even more than most other world-class athletes. I don't think she's anything similar to Caster Semenya (mentioned in that Science Daily article, I think), who is the type of athlete that would mess up these tests - she was an 800m World Champion who was unusually, err, man-like. Gender tests determined she had no womb or ovaries - and thus testosterone levels 3 times that of an average female. She was almost ousted from competing as a woman because of it.

But if you were to ask me what was more likely, either that Torres is some kind of crazy outlier like Semenya or if she has artificially enhanced her testosterone levels, I'd put my money on the latter. I'm not saying I think either are likely, just that one moreso than the other. (Though, I mean, it's hard not to suspect something illicit going on. Unbelievable narratives generally are just that.)