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Surge in Testosterone does not increase Chances of Winning

Update Date: Nov 25, 2014 01:16 PM EST

Previous researchers have suggested that a surge in one's testosterone levels can increase one's chances of winning, called the "winner-effect." A new study tested that link in intercollegiate cross-country runners and found that a surge in testosterone did not lead to a faster finish time.

"Many people in the scientific literature and in popular culture link testosterone increases to winning," graduate student Kathleen Casto, at Emory University, said according to a news release. "In this study, however, we found an increase in testosterone during a race regardless of the athletes' finish time. In fact, one of the runners with the highest increases in testosterone finished with one of the slowest times."

For this study headed by psychology professor, David Edwards, the researchers collected runners' saliva samples at three different points to test their testosterone and cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone tied to stress. They also handed out questionnaires that asked the athletes to rate each other's leadership abilities. The runners were a part of the 2010 and 2011 Emory varsity men's and women's cross country teams. The majority of the study's participants were females.

The team found that during the warm-up period, the athletes' testosterone levels started to increase. Their cortisol levels, however, remained stable. After the athletes participated in the race, all of them experienced increases in testosterone and cortisol levels. These increases were not linked to winning.

"Although short-term surges of testosterone in competition have been associated with winning, they may instead be indicators of a psychological strength for competition, the drive to win," Casto said.

The study was published in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

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