19 June 2021

Too fast, too tall, too strong. Analysis of Petrillo's performance in the men's category and then in the women's #O Olympics

A study by statistician Marco Alciator on an athlete's results before and after taking hormones and changing category from male to female - even if he is still a man at birth. As you can see, even with lowered testosterone levels for women, there is no contest. But the media rejoice at his easy victories
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When someone questions the correctness of male-born athletes competing with women, the latter usually respond that their performance has worsened since the 'gender transition'.

Apart from the fact that sports competitions are divided by sex according to the sexual difference of the bodies of men and women and not according to performance parameters, is it true that lowering the testosterone level would worsen the results of male athletes who claim to 'feel like women'?

The decision of the IOC of admitting these men to women's competitions provided a range of data, from physical (see this study published in Sports Medicine) to technical ones.

We present a study by statistical-demographic researcher Marco Alciator, conducted on the results of the athlete Petrillo before and after the 'transition and the consequent change of category from male to female.

Maria Celeste


The Olympic motto 'Citius, Altius, Fortius', i.e. 'faster, higher, stronger' is turning into a nightmare for female athletes because they may increasingly see it as too fast, too high and too strong.

What are we talking about? The possibility given to men who say theythe 'feeling women' of competing in women's sports competitions (and vice versa, in theory) if they comply with the guidelines of the IOC, International Olympic Committee, according to which it is sufficient to make a "non-modifiable 'self-declaration of gender' for 4 years and have a testosterone level of less than 10 nanomoles per litre (5 nmol/L for athletics) in the previous 12 months.
This should ensure competition fair between athletes in competitions but this is not the case, and the inequity is highlighted when biological males participate in female competitions, where for physicality, strength and speed they continue to present an
important advantage.


Also in Italy, Fidal (Italian Athletics Federation) and Fispes (Italian Federation of Paralympic and Experimental Sports) have implemented the IOC guidelines, allowing the Fabrizio Petrillo to move up to the women's category as Valentina, having lowered his testosterone to the required level while still remaining Fabrizio at birth.

Petrillo is visually impaired due to Stargardt's disease, and participates in both able-bodied and Paralympic competitions, formerly T12 then T13. It is in this capacity that he could participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Below we look at Petrillo's sporting history, starting with race results taken from the Fidal website (not Fispes). (Fabrizio Petrillo here, Valentina Petrillo here). 

Comparing Fabrizio Petrillo's seasonal best times in the 200m with those of the masters champions in his age category, the delay is 3"12 hundredths in 2016, 2"49 hundredths in 2017 and 1"83 hundredths in 2018. 

As a result of lowered testosterone levels, Valentina Petrillo was able to run 51 hundredths faster than Cristina Sanulli on the track in 2020 (see graph 1).

Troppo veloce, troppo alto, troppo forte. Analisi delle performance di Petrillo nella categoria maschile e poi in quella femminile #Olimpiadi
Graph 1 - Comparisons between Petrillo's seasonal best performances in the 200 metres and the time of the master champions in his age category (e.g. SM40 male athletes aged 40 to 44, SF45 female athletes aged 45 to 49) - years 2016-2020

In chronometric terms in the period 2016-2018 Petrillo records times with an average of about 25"50 and only in regional level competitions, in the period 2020-2021 his average becomes about 27". On this distance and in this category the difference in times between leading athletes and female athletes is about 3"30 seconds (23"30 vs 26"80), so if Petrillo had worsened his average performance by one and a half seconds he would have retained an advantage of about two seconds in the transition from male to female category.

This was directly confirmed at the Master's Athletics Championships in Arezzo in October 2020, where Valentina Petrillo was able to win over athletes of the calibre of Cristina Sanulli and Denise Neumann both with world and European masters titles won. The two athletes as sportswomen took the podium to avoid controversy but then stated that they felt they had not competed on an equal footing. Thanks to the lawyer. Fausta Quilleri also an athletics champion, together with twenty other female athletes, signed a petition calling for male-born athletes to be admitted to women's competitions exclusively out of competition. 

The news of this and other victories is given wide coverage in the sporting (and other) news in enthusiastic terms such as "rights of women and trans people, "crowning the dream , "Italian hope for the Tokyo Paralympics the fight for the recognition and non-discrimination of transgender people today may mark a historic victory"and so on.

Similarly, we look at the times provided by Fidal on the 400 metres. In 2017, the gap between Petrillo's best time and the men's masters champion is 7 seconds, while in 2020, when comparing her with the masters champion, the gap is reduced to 1"50 cents. (see graph 2). Also in the chronometric comparison, her 2021 average time compared to her 2017 post-hormone therapy time is about 2 seconds slower (59"74 to 1'02"12) and her last lap performance in May 2021 is just over a minute (1'00"31). On the basis of the available and analysed data, there is no evidence for the following statement by the athlete: "I've lost 12 seconds compared to when I was running against men and without the testosterone constraints. However, I prefer being a slower woman running the 400 metres but happy than being a faster but sad man.

Over this distance and in this category, the difference in times between the leading athletes is around 8-10 seconds, and if, as it seems, Petrillo's slowdown was around two seconds, she would still have achieved a better time. advantage 6-8 seconds in the transition from male to female categories.

The story was also presented on Rai1 in the afternoon programme ItaliaSì and Petrillo was congratulated on the results and the overlay read: Valentina Petrillo: "I was a man. But don't protest. The emphasis of the headlines in the newspapers, the celebrations on social media, a book and a film are legitimate initiatives, but really out of place given what we have said. What is not acceptable is that on public television the message is passed on to the athletes that they cannot protest about the lack of fairness of the competition criteria with the real prospect of victories and podiums that will unjustly fade away, they who have been training every day, have been excelling for years, are trying hard to make their voices heard.

Women athletes cannot protest, women cannot protest.

Better to follow the advice of Maya Forstaterresearcher and radical feministbe more courageous today than you were yesterday". In this context: be braver today than yesterday, so that tomorrow you can compete fairly, stronger, higher and faster than ever before.

Marco Alciator

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