Educator Resources

A current focus in science education is to apply science practices to real-world scenarios. Ongoing debates about the eligibility of certain female athletes to participate in women's events provide an engaging entry point for students to learn the processes involved in human reproductive development. Students apply what they have learned to evaluate the results of different tests that have been used throughout sports history to qualify female athletes to compete. The interactive can be followed by a class discussion about current knowledge of biological sex and how that knowledge could inform policy decisions.

The interactive is appropriate for general biology, anatomy and physiology, and introductory biology classes at the high school and college level.

Students should be able to complete the interactive in one to two 50-minute class periods, depending on the amount of discussion. To reduce class time, students can complete the background information under "Human Development" as homework and then complete the "Case Studies" and discuss their findings in class.

We would like to hear about your experiences using the interactive. Please send comments, implementation ideas, suggestions for additional resources to

Curriculum Connections

Standards Curriculum Connection
NGSS (2013) LS1.A, LS1.B, LS3.B, LS4.A
AP Bio (2015) 1.A.2, 3.A.4, 3.C.1
IB Bio (2016) 3.2, 3.3, 6.6, 10.1, D.5
AP Env Sci (2013) III.B
IB Env Systems and Societies (2017) 8.1
Vision and Change (2009) CC2, DP6

Key Concepts

  • Information stored in DNA is expressed as RNA and proteins, which impact anatomical structures and physiology.
  • Many gene products determine the development of biological sex characteristics in humans.
  • Like many traits, biological sex consists of a spectrum of phenotypes.
  • Scientific knowledge (e.g., knowledge about which genes and other factors contribute to a person's traits) can inform societal practices (e.g., what types of tests can be used to define an individual's biological sex), although ultimately implementing those practices reflects our values as a society.


Genel et al. Sex and Gender in Sport: Fallacy of the "Level Playing Field. Pediatric Research 68: 149 (2010).

Hughes, Houk, Ahmed, Lee. Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders. J. Pediatr. Urol. 2: 148-162, 2006.

Healy, M. L., et al. Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the postcompetition setting. Clinical endocrinology 81.2: 294-305 (2014).

Bermon, S. et al. Serum androgen levels in elite female athletes. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 99: 4328 (2014).

Bermon S, Garnier P. Serum androgen levels and their relation to performance in track and field: mass spectrometry results from 2127 observations in male and female elite athletes. Br J Sports Med 51:1309-1314 (2017).

Menier, A. Use of event-specific tertiles to analyse the relationship between serum androgens and athletic performance in women. Br. J. Sports Med. Published Online First: 19 January 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098464

Sőnksen PH et al. Hyperandrogenism controversy in elite women's sport: an examination and critique of recent evidence. Br. J.Sports Med. Published Online First: 19 January 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098446

A variety of news articles have been published on the subject. The following are some recent examples that present different opinions:

Dreger, A. Track's absurd new rules for women. The New York Times. April 27, 2018.

Lambelet Coleman, D. Sex, sport, and why track and field's new rules on intersex athletes are essential. The New York Times. April 30, 2018.