“This is an effort at what I would call a do-over, and it’s embarrassing and it’s not how science is expected to be done,” Pielke said. “I think this adds considerably more weight to our call for the original paper to be retracted. This is everything but putting up a billboard saying, ‘We really screwed up the data in the original study.’”
Another of the independent researchers, Ross Tucker, an exercise physiologist who specializes in sports performance at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, agreed that the first study should still be retracted. The re-analysis, he said, included “too much uncertainty to trust.”
A re-analysis of the original study might, in fact, make even a stronger case for the I.A.A.F.’s position on the need to regulate testosterone levels, the independent researchers said in interviews. But any new analysis should be conducted only with a full independent audit and with publicly available performance data that could be replicated by independent scholars, the researchers said.
The I.A.A.F. has lacked transparency in providing and presenting its data, said Boye, the Norwegian researcher, who described the governing body as “doing everything with their hands over the data.”
Given the data errors, the original study is “entirely untrustworthy” and “an impossible position” for the I.A.A.F. to defend, said Tucker, the South African researcher.
He added, “If I was on Semenya’s team, this would be among the best news I could receive.”
If the challenge to the study succeeds, this would be the second major setback for the I.A.A.F. in trying to set testosterone limits.
In 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended a previous I.A.A.F. rule, saying the governing body had not sufficiently quantified the performance advantage gained in women’s events by elevated testosterone levels. That case involved an Indian sprinter named Dutee Chand.