British Cycling has suspended its transgender policy with immediate effect, saying that the current system is “unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing.” The national governing body, which has found itself in the spotlight since the UCI’s decision to bar transgender cyclist Emily Bridges from competing in last weekend’s women’s British Omnium Championship, which would have been her first race as a woman, described the situation as “unprecedented in our sport.”
Bridges, aged 21, had been cleared by British Cycling to race in Derby last weekend against riders including five-time Olympic champion Laura Trott, due to her testosterone levels falling sufficiently low to comply with the organisation’s regulations.
However, with a number of competitors reportedly planning to boycott the event if she were allowed to race, British Cycling subsequently said that she would not be permitted to compete because the UCI had told it she had not satisfied its regulations.
In its statement released today, British Cycling said:
When we developed and published our Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy, we did so with the intention of advancing the cause of promoting diversity and inclusion within the sport of cycling.
Understanding that this is a fast-moving area of sports policy and scientific research, we committed to reviewing our policy annually or more frequently, as required, to reflect emerging circumstances.
Due to the difference in the policies held by British Cycling and the UCI relating to the licensing process, it is currently possible for trans-female athletes to gain eligibility to race domestically while their cases remain pending with the UCI (or indeed in situations where they are deemed ineligible).
This in turn allows those riders to accrue domestic ranking points which impact selection decisions for National Championship races, which is not only unprecedented in our sport, but is also unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing.
We also understand that there are concerns regarding the extent to which our current policy appropriately reflects the Sports Councils’ Equality Group guidance, published in September 2021.
As a result of this, on Wednesday 6 April the British Cycling Board of Directors voted in favour of an immediate suspension of the current policy, pending a full review, which will be initiated in the coming weeks.
While the current policy was created following an extensive external and internal consultation, the review will allow us time for further discussion with all stakeholders, including women and the transgender and non-binary communities, as we strive to provide all within our sport with the clarity and understanding they deserve.
As an organisation we remain committed to ensuring that transgender and non-binary people are welcomed, supported and celebrated in the cycling community, and the inclusion of these groups within non-competitive activities remains unaffected by the suspension. We will also continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our sport remains free of hate, discrimination and abuse in all forms, and that we prioritise the welfare of riders, volunteers, event organisers, commissaires and others that our sport can’t continue without.
In the past week we have started in earnest our work to galvanise a coalition of organisations to come together to find a better answer, and have enjoyed productive discussions with national governing bodies and others across sport. The challenge is far greater than one event or one sport, and only by working together can we hope to find a timely solution, which achieves fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.
The case has made headlines around the world, and earlier this week an open letter to the UCI with more than 70 signatories claimed that the current rule “does not guarantee female athletes ‘fair and meaningful competition that displays and rewards the fundamental values of the meaning of the sport’,” and is “discriminatory in that it advantages only biological male athletes by providing them greater opportunity to compete and enjoy the rewards of sport at its highest level.”
Signatories to the letter included British Cycling’s head of Olympic and Paralympic programmes Sara Symington, who herself represented Great Britain in cycling at Sydney in 2000 and Athens four years later.
However, UK Sport, which allocates funding to athletes on Olympic and Paralaympic programmes in the various sports its funds, has said that should Bridges be allowed to participate in women’s events, she would be eligible for National Lottery funding.
The organisation’s chief executive, Sally Munday, said: “We will support every or any athlete who a sport or governing body has deemed to have future potential and is eligible to compete.”
“With regards to what is said politically, we have been really clear in our guidance that it is down for sports to decide what the rules should be,” she said, in what can be interpreted as a reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comment earlier this week that he does not believe “biological males should be competing in female sporting events.”
Simon joined road.cc 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.