ESPN reporter questions whether trans athletes have advantage in women’s sports

ESPN reporter Katie Barnes said Tuesday they didn’t believe there was enough scientific evidence to support that transgender women would have an advantage over biological women in sports.

Barnes appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper. The host asked Barnes about the “narrative” that transgender female athletes have an advantage and whether studies supported that notion.

“I think it depends on what you mean by support that,” Barnes said. “From my reporting, the reality is that from a scientific perspective, we know that there are differences in sexes, and we know the differences do tend to lead to athletic performance differences as well. However, when we look at broad-based restrictions at all levels of sport, it’s very challenging to say that scientifically that is supported in all cases. 

Lia Thomas Upenn nationals

Transgender athlete Lia Thomas looks on after winning the Women’s 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship at the McAuley Aquatic Center on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“Meaning that, something that might be appropriate for swimming does not necessarily apply to basketball, when it comes to individual sports versus team sports, as well as level of competition. So, I think the idea that transgender women have an advantage in all sports at all times regardless of any kind of medical transition, I don’t think that the scientific literature supports that at this time.”


In 2021, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that transgender women maintain an advantage over biological women even after a year of hormone therapy treatment.

“For the Olympic level, the elite level, I’d say probably two years is more realistic than one year,” Dr. Timothy Roberts, the director of the adolescent medicine training program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, told NBC News at the time. “At one year, the trans women on average still have an advantage over the cis women.”

NAIA building

The NAIA headquarters is shown closed on March 26, 2020. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Barnes was also asked about the NAIA’s decision to prohibit transgender women from competing against biological fames in sports.

“I think it’s reflective of the times that we are in terms of, for the last 3 or 4 years, we have seen most policy updates, when it comes to transgender athletes, be reflective of restriction and this seems to fall right in line with that,” Barnes said.

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