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NPR Ignores Readily Available Scientific Research on Transgender Athletes

On Friday, NPR published an article from Juliana Kim claiming “limited scientific research involving elite transgender athletes,” after the World Athletics Council decided to bar transgender athletes from elite competitions for women.

According to the article, the World Athletics Council has conducted its own research over the course of ten years, finding that gender does have an impact on performance. However, Human Right Watch called the council’s research “flawed,” and that was enough for NPR to make the claim that there is little evidence that men competing in women’s sports under the guise of a woman give them an advantage.

In big, bold letters, NPR’s Kim states: “World Athletics Council acknowledges that there is limited research on elite transgender athletes.” First, the subsequent text does little to cite who acknowledged the lack of research on the council. Second, and most importantly, a lack of research may be explained by the fact that we are currently in the experimental phase of transgenderism. Comprehensive research, which will likely show that biological men have an advantage in women’s sports, will be available once the experimental phase has been completed.

Unfortunately for NPR, Twitter users were able to dig up some readily available scientific research and received context from tweeters that read: “Significant evidence from numerous studies demonstrates that trans-athletes maintain a competitive physical advantage despite gender-affirming care.”

One study published by the National Library of Medicine in March 2020 -- just three years ago -- followed men and women transitioning from their biological sex and the impact their transition had on their muscle mass. Researchers found that “one year of gender-affirming treatment resulted in robust increases in muscle mass and strength in [transgender men], but modest changes in [transgender women].”

A BMJ Journals’ Journal of Medical Ethics essay recognizes that “science demonstrates that high testosterone and other male physiology provides a performance advantage in sport suggesting that transwomen retain some of that advantage.”

Another study from BMJ Journals’ British Journal of Sports Medicine recognizes that transgender women had a 9% faster mean run speed after the 1 year period of testosterone suppression that is recommended by World Athletics for inclusion in women’s events.”

The final study shared with NPR as added context to their article claiming a lack of scientific research supporting the notion that men are physically stronger than women found that “strength may be well preserved in transwomen during the first 3 years of hormone therapy.”

NPR’s writers are likely aware that plenty of research and common sense is available suggesting that men are likely to outperform women physically. Ignoring the research would be one thing, but to suggest to its readers that research is extremely limited feels purposefully misleading.

Integrity in journalism is dead. Recognizing that research clearly shows that transgender women, or men, have an advantage over cis women, or women, would be dangerous to the narrative they’re attempting to push. If it wasn’t for vigilante Twitter users doing the research for NPR, this misinformation campaign could have potentially turned violent against the World Athletics Council if people were under the impression that the council was barring transgender track athletes from competing in women’s international events out of bigotry alone.

Facts matter and should always guide our decision-making. How we feel should matter much less, and “journalists” like Kim who refuse to do their jobs should not be considered journalists at all.

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