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Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges breaks silence to question “alleged ineligibility”

Bridges, who was told on Wednesday that she cannot compete in the women’s event at this weekend’s National Omnium Championships, says she has been “harassed and demonised” in recent weeks

Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges says she ‘just wants to race competitively again’ after being told that she cannot compete in the women’s event at this weekend’s National Omnium Championships under current UCI guidelines.

In a statement released on Friday, Bridges said that she has been in contact with British Cycling and the UCI over the last six months and has provided the two governing bodies with “medical evidence that I meet the eligibility criteria for transgender female cyclists”.

The 21-year-old also criticised the coverage of her case in the British media, which she says has resulted in her being “relentlessly harassed and demonised” in recent weeks.

She said: “I am an athlete, and I just want to race competitively again, within the Regulations set by British Cycling and UCI after careful consideration of the research around transgender athletes.

“No one should have to choose between being who they are, and participating in the sport they love.”

Bridges was set to make her competitive debut as a female cyclist at the National Omnium Championships in Derby this weekend, taking on leading riders such as multiple Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny.

After revealing her struggles with gender dysphoria in a Coming Out Day article written for Sky Sports in October 2020, Bridges started undergoing hormone therapy last year. Her testosterone levels are now sufficiently low to allow her to compete in women’s events under British Cycling’s Transgender and Non-Binary Participation Policy

According to the latest version of the policy, transgender athletes are required to have testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per litre for a year (men generally range between 10 and 30 nanomoles per litre) before being permitted to compete against other women.

> UCI bars transgender cyclist Emily Bridges from debut as woman at National Omnium Championships this weekend 

However, British Cycling revealed on Wednesday that it had been informed by the UCI that “under their current guidelines Emily is not eligible to participate” at the championships in Derby.

The UCI told the national body that, because international ranking points are allocated at national championships, Bridges could only race once her eligibility to compete as a female in international competitions is confirmed, a process which is still ongoing.

In a statement released on Wednesday, British Cycling said: “We have been in close discussions with the UCI regarding Emily’s participation this weekend and have also engaged closely with Emily and her family regarding her transition and involvement in elite competitions.

“We acknowledge the decision of the UCI with regards to Emily’s participation, however we fully recognise her disappointment with today’s decision.”

Bridges responded to her exclusion on Friday evening, saying that she has been in contact with the UCI and British Cycling to request clarity concerning her ineligibility, and called on the two bodies to reconsider their decision.

Her statement reads:

For the last six months, I have been in contact with British Cycling and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) over the eligibility criteria I would need to meet as a transgender woman in order to race in the female category at the British National Omnium Championships this Saturday, 2 April 2022.

In that time, I have provided both British Cycling and UCI with medical evidence that I meet the eligibility criteria for transgender female cyclists, including that my testosterone level has been far below the limit prescribed by the Regulations for the last 12 months.

Despite the public announcement, I still have little clarity around their finding of my ineligibility under their regulations.

Bridges also criticised how her case has been handled online and in the British media, including alleged reports that some female competitors had threatened to boycott the event if Emily raced, which she says has led to her receiving “targeted abuse” on social media:

As is no surprise with most of the British media, I’ve been relentlessly harassed and demonised by those who have a specific agenda to push. They attack everything that isn’t the norm and print whatever is most likely to result in the highest engagement for their articles, and bring in advertising.

This is without care for the wellbeing of individuals or marginalised groups, and others are left to pick up the pieces due to their actions. Trans people are the latest of a long list of people to be treated this way, and unfortunately, without change, we won’t be the last.

I’ve had journalists at my front door every day harassing us for comment and story, my privacy has been totally violated over speculation around my eligibility and fairness to compete. I’ve had to deactivate my social media to prevent the targeted abuse I am receiving, and block websites to stop seeing them.

This is despite the fact I have not yet raced in the female category. I have been judged despite a total lack of evidence against me, purely because I am trans.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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