During the last decades androgens have been used illicitly by athletes of both genders. Because of some obvious ethical limitations, mechanisms underlying the performance-enhancing effects of these hormone or drugs, as well as the magnitude of their effects, have been poorly addressed. This review aims to combine findings from field and from the laboratory to provide new insights into the ergogenic properties of endogenous or exogenous androgens on female athletes.
Results obtained from recent neuropsychological studies indicated that testosterone, and not the sex chromosomes, is responsible for the sexual differentiation of visuospatial neural activation. These findings could explain how males and hyperandrogenic females benefit from androgens performance-enhancing effects in sports where visuospatial abilities are closely linked to better performance. Another study conducted on elite female athletes showed that, in some athletic events, where muscle power is of critical importance, individuals with the highest free testosterone concentration significantly outperformed competitors with the lowest free testosterone concentration.
In some sport events, female athletes with high or very high androgen levels (whether it is from endogenous or exogenous origin) have an estimated competitive benefit of 2–5% over those with androgen levels within the normal female range. These findings are to be taken into account in the actual controversy about eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism to compete in women's sports.
Monaco Institute for Sports Medicine and Surgery, Monaco, and Université Côte d’Azur, LAMHESS, Nice, France
Correspondence to Dr Stéphane Bermon, IM2S, 11 avenue d’Ostende, 98000 Monaco. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org