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

British Cycling calls on governing bodies, transgender community and government “to come together and find a better answer”

British Cycling has confirmed that transgender cyclist Emily Bridges will not now make her competitive debut as a woman at the National Omnium Championships in Derby this weekend, saying that the UCI has informed it that under current regulations, she “is not eligible to participate in this event.”

We will have more on this story in the morning. In the meantime, in a statement released this evening, the national governing body said:

At British Cycling, we believe that transgender and non-binary people should be able to find a home, feel welcome and included, and be celebrated in our sport.

Under the British Cycling Transgender and Non-Binary Participation policy, Emily Bridges was due to participate in the British National Omnium Championships on Saturday 2nd April. We have now been informed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) that under their current guidelines Emily is not eligible to participate in this event.

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.

Transgender and non-binary inclusion is bigger than one race and one athlete – it is a challenge for all elite sports. We believe all participants within our sport deserve more clarity and understanding around participation in elite competitions and we will continue to work with the UCI on both Emily’s case and the wider situation with regards to this issue.

We also understand that in elite sports the concept of fairness is essential. For this reason, British Cycling is today calling for a coalition to share, learn and understand more about how we can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.

Within recent years, we’ve seen huge advancements in the science and testing around elite sports, the broader scientific and understanding of human biology, developments in protection provided by the law, and crucially a greater respect for the psychological and societal challenges of those who are transgender and non-binary. This is a complex area and by uniting, we can share resources and insights.

We know that some of these conversations are happening in pockets of the sporting world, but we want to encourage all sporting governing bodies, athletes, the transgender and non-binary athlete community, the Government and beyond to come together and find a better answer.

Across sports, far more needs to be done, collectively, before any long-term conclusions can be drawn.

Below is our original article, published at 1215 today.

A transgender cyclist who was once part of the men’s Great Britain Academy Programme, and who last month won a men’s race at the British Universities Track Championships, looks set to make her competitive debut as a woman against some of the country’s top female riders including multiple Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny at the National Omnium Championships in Derby this weekend – although some competitors are said to be afraid to speak out about her potential participation in the event.

Emily Bridges, aged 21, revealed her struggles with gender dysphoria and the impact it was having on her, including depression and feeling isolated, in an article written for Sky Sports that was published on Coming Out Day in October 2020.

She started undergoing hormone therapy last year, and 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.

First published in 2020, the latest version of the policy was published in January this year following a consultation last summer that attracted 600 responses.

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.

Announcing the update, British Cycling said: “Our first Transgender and Non-Binary Participation Policy was designed to be as inclusive as possible, imposing only necessary and proportionate restrictions on eligibility to ensure fair and meaningful competition, based on the most relevant available guidance.”

The governing body said that it would “continue to follow the UCI regulations introduced in March 2020, which are based on objective scientific research and driven by a desire to guarantee fairness and safety within the sport …  For this reason, testosterone levels remain the primary method of determining which members are eligible to compete in the male and female categories.”

It added: “While there has been much commentary on the effectiveness of testosterone-based measures, at the current time we do not have sufficient research or understanding to update this area of our policy in a way which is relevant and appropriate for our sport.

“However, we remain committed to moving with international bodies and scientific opinion, and supporting research efforts in any way we can.”

News of Bridges’ likely participation in Derby this weekend has attracted criticism within the media, with Owen Slot, chief sports writer at The Times, writing that should she beat Kenny – five times an Olympic gold medallist, two of those in the Omnium – this weekend, it would underline the unfairness of allowing transgender women to compete in female sports events.

Meanwhile, Olympic silver medal-winning former swimmer Sharron Davies, who believes that despite reduction of testosterone levels, transgender women retain an unfair physical advantage over biological females and should therefore be excluded from women’s sport, says that she has been contacted by women cyclists who are fearful of going public with their concerns.

“British Cycling ought to be ashamed of themselves,” she said, quoted on Mail Online. “I have had quite a few of the girls very distressed on the phone. They are frustrated and disappointed. 

“They are all for inclusion but not at the loss of fairness and opportunities for biological females.”

However, Bridges’ mother Sandy, writing on Twitter, said that her daughter may have to have police protection at the championships this weekend.

“This is the reality of being trans today,” she wrote. “That my daughter has to be on a police operation plan to compete in a bike race in the UK. How in any way can that be #SafeToBeMe2022.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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