Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges breaks silence to demand ‘urgent responses’ to racing ban

Emily Bridges, the transgender cyclist who was barred from racing against Laura Kenny at Saturday’s National Omnium Championships, has called for urgent responses from cycling’s governing bodies.

Speaking publicly for the first time since her entry was accepted and then abruptly denied on Wednesday night, Bridges said she was comfortably meeting the required testosterone levels and underlined her sincere desire to race. “No one should have to choose between being who they are and participating in the sport they love,” she said.

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

“I have provided British Cycling and the UCI with medical evidence that I meet the eligibility criteria for transgender cyclists, including that my testosterone level is well below the limit prescribed by the regulations over the past 12 last months.

“I am in contact with British Cycling and the UCI to seek clarification on my alleged ineligibility, and I hope they will reconsider their decision in accordance with the regulations.”

Bridges, whose testosterone levels had fallen well below the 5nmol/L limit over the past year, was also dropped from British Cycling’s Nations Cup squad on Friday after initially being part of the long list.

It is understood that the UCI wishes to refer Bridges’ case to an expert panel for a six-week window. The UCI has spoken separately with other sports governing bodies about the introduction of new transgender guidelines.

Bridges, who had previously set national junior men’s records, finished second to last at the Welsh Men’s Road Race Championships last year after treatment to suppress his testosterone, but won the men’s points race at the British Universities Championships in Glasgow in February. She also used her statement to criticize her treatment by sections of the media.

“I was relentlessly harassed and demonized by those who had a specific agenda to push forward,” the 21-year-old said. “I had to turn off my social media to avoid the targeted abuse I receive and block websites from seeing them again. This despite the fact that I have not yet raced in the women’s category. I have been judged despite a complete lack of evidence against me, just because I’m trans.

The UCI was under increasing pressure on Friday night to provide evidence of its transgender policy and said the new rules should be based on more than just testosterone.

Current guidelines state that trans women must have testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L for at least a year, but the Union Cycliste Internationale is challenged by female cyclists who, according to President David Lappertient, are ” completely against” the current rules.

CPA Women, an association of professional cyclists led by former women’s world champion Alessandra Cappellotto, said it was “fair and safe competition for all”, but pointed to a lack of evidence to reassure riders. cisgender women that they would not be disadvantaged. “To date, there is no research showing that trans women do not have a clear advantage over biological women in the female category,” said a statement published by Telegraph Sport.

“We are in discussion with the UCI, professors and researchers to find the right answers for everyone and give everyone the opportunity to ride a bike, but in the most appropriate way and category.”

The statement also cites research that indicates trans women generally retain physical advantages over cisgender women even after 36 months.

“Athletes of various genders left in a vulnerable position”

Joanna Harper, who is currently studying the performance of transgender athletes in three major research projects at Loughborough University, said trans women retained size and strength advantages even after removing testosterone, but stressed that the “magnitude” of the benefit was unknown.

Height is particularly relevant in swimming, where Lia Thomas last month became the first transgender athlete to win a women’s college title in the United States.

Bridges was part of Loughborough’s research that specifically measures changes in physiological performance after testosterone reduction. Bridges has reported significant drops in her power output over the past year and told Cycling Weekly that the reduction in testosterone has also impacted other determinants of performance, which have dropped at women’s levels. .

Dr Emma O’Donnell, lecturer in exercise physiology at Loughborough and its lead researcher, said testosterone was “an important parameter to consider”, given that it increases strength, power and speed, but did not provide the “full picture”.

Dr O’Donnell also pointed to the potential importance of prolonged exposure to testosterone before starting gender-affirming hormone therapy and said this could not be fully mitigated.

This was also supported by sports scientist Dr Ross Tucker, who cautioned against taking steps simply to further lower the testosterone threshold or increase the period beyond a year. “There are still few words in the language used by leaders to suggest that they understand that a choice must be made,” he said. Dr Tucker is also an adviser to World Rugby which, for security reasons, has excluded transgender women from women’s football.

The International Olympic Committee removed testosterone limits from its sports guidelines last year and said it was instead up to individual governing bodies to set their own rules. They also pointed to the potentially “serious negative” health effects of forcing women to alter their hormone levels and said sport should assume trans athletes had no advantage unless the contrary is not proven.

Dr Seema Patel, an expert on gender discrimination in sport and senior lecturer at Nottingham Law School, urged sport to also look at issues beyond the simple physiology of performance.

“The IOC has changed the conversation, the directions, to prioritize gender equality, non-discrimination and inclusion,” she said. “They said there should be no presumption of advantage. Nobody really listens to that. From a human rights perspective, the key point is that if they continue to impose regulations or policies that are not evidence-based, and not based on conclusive research, and rather based on assumptions or presumptions, this is potentially inconsistent with human rights provisions because it has an exclusionary effect. So it could be discriminatory.

“There is a panic being created around performance and advantage, which distracts from human rights issues in this debate. This leaves minority groups such as athletes of diverse gender identities in a vulnerable position. This cannot come only from science, it must also concern law and human rights.

The governing bodies of cycling, swimming and triathlon are all reviewing their transgender orientations, with the UCI wanting decisions “in the coming months”. New rules could have a major impact on Bridges or Thomas’ chances of competing in future women’s competitions.

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