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31st Mar 2022

Trans cyclist Emily Bridges banned from championship after calls for female athletes to boycott

Charlie Herbert

Emily Bridges banned from competing in National Omnium Championships

The cyclist had been set to compete alongside some of the biggest names in women’s cycling

Trans cyclist Emily Bridges will not compete at her first women’s event this weekend after an intervention from cycling’s world governing body.

Bridges had been set to compete at the National Omnium Championships on Saturday, facing off against some of the biggest names in the sport, including five-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny.

But the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has now ruled that she is not eligible to compete in the event, because she is still registered as a male cyclist, and will therefore only be able to compete as a woman when her male UCI ID expires.

Bridges came out as transgender in 2020, and began hormone therapy last year as part of treatment for her gender dysphoria. She was eligible to compete under British Cycling’s guidelines because of her lowered testosterone levels.

She competed in her final men’s race last month when she won a men’s points race at the British Universities Championships in Glasgow, the BBC reports.

In a statement on Wednesday, British Cycling said: “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.”

The organisation said that it believes “transgender and non-binary people should be able to find a home, feel welcome and included, and be celebrated” in the sport, and called 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.”

The statement continues: “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.”

Bridges came out as transgender in 2020 and began hormone therapy last year (Instagram)

Although no cyclists competing on Saturday had come out and openly voiced their opposition to Bridges’ participation, the Guardian reports that there had been discussions amongst female riders about potentially boycotting the event in Derby

There had been calls from female athletes in other sports for female cyclists to boycott the event.

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies said the “very serious threat of a boycott helped hugely” to prompt intervention from the UCI.

She told GB News: “It would not have been fair to ask Laura Kenny and the other women cyclists that Bridges would have come up against to have to race a rival with the advantages of a biological man.”

Ellie Baker, who was fourth at the European 800 metres indoor athletics championship, called for a mass boycott of the race on Saturday.

She tweeted: “How this has been allowed to happen is just ridiculous. I would refuse to race and hope that the other women would stand with me on this too. This is totally unfair. The advantages a trans women have had from going through puberty as a boy to a man can never been undone.”

Former Olympic champions Sally Gunnell backed Baker’s words, tweeting that “females passed and present should stand together on us.”

The current trans inclusion rules are that a rider’s testosterone levels must be below 5nmol/L for at least 12 months before their first race. This is on the basis that this will reduce a rider’s performance to female level, which in endurance cycling is around 10 percent lower than male performance.

In a recent interview with Cycling Weekly, Bridges said that she believed the current rules are appropriate. She has been participating in a study at Loughborough University to monitor her change in performance, with results indicating a 13 to 16 percent drop in her power outputs across six-second, one-, five and 20-minute durations.

Earlier this month, US college transgender swimmer Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships.

Her participation was backed by 300 swimmers in an open letter, but also faced some opposition from others.

Despite winning the 500-yard freestyle, Florida governor Ron DeSantis named runner-up Emma Weyant as the winner of the event.

Last summer, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

She competed in the women’s super heavyweight weightlifting competition, but was eliminated in the first round.

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