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Mayo Clinic Prof Suspended for Saying Testosterone Has a 'Dramatic' Impact in Sports

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A professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science was recently suspended and could be fired after he told a media outlet his assessment of biological men participating in women's sports as trans athletes, and plasma treatments for COVID-19. 

The College Fix reports Prof. Michael Joyner, M.D. was suspended without pay for a week by administrators, citing his "use of idiomatic language" and comments he made in a June 2022 New York Times article as justification for the disciplinary actions, according to a March 5 disciplinary letter that recently came to light.

The letter also told him to avoid speaking to the media unless the Rochester, Minnesota-based postgraduate research university gave him permission. 

Dr. Joyner's opinions reportedly "proved problematic in the media and the LGBTQI+ community at Mayo Clinic," according to a letter he received from the college, which was recently published by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), according to The College Fix.  

slider img 2In May 2022, Joyner told The Times in an article titled "What Lia Thomas Could Mean for Women's Elite Sports" that, when it comes to telling the difference between biological males and females, "you see the divergence immediately as the testosterone surges into the boys," he said. "There are dramatic differences in performances."

Later in The Times article that was updated in June 2022, he said, "there are social aspects to sport, but physiology and biology underpin it… testosterone is the 800-pound gorilla."

Dr. Joyner's comments were picked up by several media outlets and were used in articles about the unfair advantage Thomas had over female swimmers. 

CBN News also cited Joyner's statement in an article in May 2022 featuring several medical professionals quoting scientific evidence about testosterone. 

As CBN News reported, NCAA rules require at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment in order to compete in women's events. Thomas, who came out as transgender in 2019, has undergone two years of testosterone suppression and began swimming on the women's UPenn team at the start of her senior year. 

But peer-reviewed studies have confirmed that even with this treatment, athletes with biologically male DNA and physiology still have an unfair advantage when competing against biological women. 

Other medical professionals also backed up Joyner's statement. 

"Lia Thomas is the manifestation of the scientific evidence," Dr. Ross Tucker, a sports physiologist who consults on world athletics told The Times. "The reduction in testosterone did not remove her biological advantage."

Citing Science in an Effort to Save Lives

Last January, Joyner also spoke to CNN about efforts to save lives, citing the benefits of convalescent plasma as a treatment for immune-compromised individuals who contract COVID-19. He expressed his frustration with the government and other medical professionals who discount plasma as an effective course of treatment, according to The College Fix

The Mayo Clinic's letter gave a list of expectations, telling Joyner to, "Discuss approved topics only and stick to prescribed messaging; eliminate use of idiomatic language."

"Failure to fully comply with the expectations outlined above or any additional validated complaints from any staff, including, but not limited to, the issues noted above, or any form of retaliation will result in termination of employment," the letter said. 

FIRE has taken up Joyner's case and has sent two letters to the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science on his behalf, The College Fix reported. 

Joyner is currently appealing the disciplinary action against him. 

"We intend to allow that process to play out and accept the decision of the appeals committee," the MCCM legal counsel wrote in response. 

In addition, the Mayo Clinic says it is not stifling free expression.

"Mayo Clinic remains fully committed to academic freedom and expression, as demonstrated by hundreds of media interviews provided by our physicians and scientists each year. This is a personnel issue between Dr. Joyner and Mayo as his private employer, and we will not comment further at this time," Mayo Clinic Communications Director Andrea Kalmanovitz reportedly stated in response to FIRE's efforts to defend Dr. Joyner.

CBN News reached out to the Mayo Clinic for additional comment. The nonprofit medical research organization replied with the following statement. 

“Mayo Clinic supports academic freedom, as evidenced by the hundreds of interviews Mayo physicians, including Dr. Joyner, give each year. Groundbreaking and sometimes controversial scientific research and publications permeate our 150-year history. Contrary to statements made by individuals and advocacy groups, Dr. Joyner’s discipline does not implicate questions of academic freedom. Mayo Clinic did not discipline Dr. Joyner for statements he made about transgender athletes. Mayo disciplined Dr. Joyner for treating coworkers disrespectfully and for making unprofessional comments about the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) regulation of convalescent plasma. Dr. Joyner’s comments about the NIH did not reflect the expression of a scientific or academic opinion, but instead were an expression of his personal frustration with the NIH’s regulation of a therapy he had championed," the statement said. 

"Importantly, Dr. Joyner’s disciplinary action was not issued in a vacuum; it was issued in the context of serious disciplinary action in 2020 that involved overlapping issues related to disrespectful interactions with employees and inappropriate behavior related to Dr. Joyner’s work on convalescent plasma. Specifically, Dr. Joyner’s discipline in 2020 was based on a finding that he (1) engaged in rude and disrespectful communications with internal colleagues and external partners, and (2) gave Mayo an ultimatum and threatened to stop his work on convalescent plasma if, within 48 hours, Mayo did not agree to give him an up-front seven-figure payment or a percentage of funds he claimed he was generating for Mayo Clinic. The 2020 disciplinary action was unrelated to any of Dr. Joyner’s frequent interactions with reporters," the statement continued. 

"Both the 2020 and 2023 disciplinary actions were reviewed and supported by a committee of Dr. Joyner’s physician peers, who carefully considered all relevant facts and history before reaching their decision, as is Mayo’s standard process. Details of these actions are included in the unredacted personnel records that can be obtained from Dr. Joyner’s representatives," the statement concluded. 

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of