The trans woman cyclist Emily Bridges has been blocked from participating in the British National Omnium Championship on Saturday after cycling’s governing body, the UCI, ruled she was ineligible.
Bridges – who set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in 2018 – had been due to compete against several British Olympians, including Dame Laura Kenny, in her first race in the women’s category. However the UCI ruled the 21-year-old, who began hormone therapy last year to reduce her testosterone levels, was currently not compliant with its regulations as she is still registered as a male cyclist – and therefore cannot compete as a woman until her male regulations UCI ID expires.
The UCI’s decision came amid a growing backlash from within the sport, with the Guardian understanding that a number of female riders were talking about boycotting the event in Derby because they felt that Bridges, who was on the Great Britain Academy program as a male rider until being dropped in 2020, had an unfair advantage.
It is understood those riders were also supported by many in the performance team at British Cycling. In a statement confirming the news, British Cycling said Bridges was “disappointed” with UCI’s decision.
“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,” they said. “We acknowledge the decision of the UCI with regards to Emily’s participation in her, however we fully recognize her disappointment in her with today’s decision.”
In a notable change in approach, British Cycling called for a “coalition” to address transgender and non‑binary participation in elite sports – and stressed that fairness was “essential”. In a statement it said: “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. Across sports, far more needs to be done, collectively, before any long-term conclusions can be drawn.”
However, a comprehensive review of the science, conducted by the five British sports councils (SCEG) last September, said that it was possible to draw conclusions based on the latest research.
The SCEG said the science showed there were “retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person registered male at birth”.
It also told sports that as a result there was no easy way to balance safety, fairness and trans inclusivity – and that they would have to prioritize which to favour.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism