New Study “Reveals” That Biological Sex Matters More Than Gender Identity In Sports

Jack Hadfield

A new peer-reviewed study published in BMJ Science is prompting mockery for revealing that biological sex appears to be more of a factor in an athlete’s performance than their self-declared “gender identity.”

The study, conducted by Dr. John Armstrong of King’s College London, Dr. Alice Sullivan of University College London, and George Perry, an independent American researcher, analyzed the results of 21 races from the New York Road Runners “non-binary” category, where both biological men and women compete.

The researchers presented two hypotheses, one based on the belief that gender identity played a factor in athletic performance, with perceived societal gender differences having an effect on the results. The other hypothesis saw biological sex as a definitive athletic factor, and predicted that biological males would outrun biological female athletes regardless of both identifying as non-binary.

The data revealed that there was, in fact, a sex gap between biological male and female runners, and that there was zero evidence to support the case that that gap was smaller due to them being non-binary. 

“Gender identity is clearly important to many people, but nevertheless sex matters,” said Dr. Armstrong in his commentary. “Given the lack of empirical evidence supporting gender-identity theory, one should not assume by default that gender-identity is a more powerful explanatory variable than sex. Being an objectively measurable binary variable, sex has considerable explanatory advantages over gender identity.”

He continued: “Our results illustrate that if we want to understand the needs of gender non-conforming individuals, it is vital to control for biological sex as it is likely to play a significant role in any analysis … Both sex and gender identity should therefore both be considered useful explanatory variables in data collection.”

Further analysis indicated that non-binary identified athletes may actually be slower than other athletes when both sex and age are controlled for.

Earlier this month, The Publica reported that Nicholas Dill, a biological male, was awarded a $500 prize for coming first in the non-binary category of a New York Road Runners race. The non-binary category had only 15 participants, while the male and female categories had over 2,000 participants.

Dill won the same amount of money as the other top runners, despite being more than 10 minutes slower the top men’s runner, and almost four minutes slower the first-place women’s time.

On social media, the Armstrong study was circulated amongst critics of gender ideology who reacted incredulously.

“I literally could not bring myself to believe this wasn’t satire until I looked up the study,” Canadian journalist Eva Kurilova said.

“‘Scientists’ rediscover that men outperform women in sports, a fact previously known through all of human existence up until the last 5 minutes,” another X user commented.

Responding directly to Dr. John Armstrong, who posted the study to his social media, one user wrote: “Not to disrespect your work, but isn’t this absolutely bloody obvious to the most casual observer?”

Armstrong responded with a link to a Scientific American article published in November.

“Not according to Scientific American who believe ‘The inequity between male and female athletes is a result not of inherent biological differences between the sexes but of biases in how they are treated in sports.”

While many social media users mocked the study, Armstrong says the purpose of the research was to put “gender-identity theory” to the test in an apparent effort to offer a scientific baseline upon which conclusions could be drawn on the impact of including gender identity in athletic guidelines.

“The case of mass-participation athletic performance gives us one specific test of gender-identity theory. It would be interesting to look at other applications of gender-identity empirically,” he said.

“If gender-identity theory is to be used in policy making, we should surely first check whether or not it is actually true.”

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