Olympic cycling chief calls for sport to ban trans athletes from competing against women

6 April 2022, 12:02

Sara Symington called for cycling bosses to ban transgender women from competing in women's events
Sara Symington called for cycling bosses to ban transgender women from competing in women's events. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Megan Hinton

The head of Great Britain's Olympic cycling programme has called for the sport to ban transgender women from competing against biological women.

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Sara Symington who competed for team GB in the 200 and 2004 Olympics, alongside 75 other sports women, have written a letter to the cycling world governing body, the UCI, criticising their current transgender policy.

It comes after it was announced transgender cyclist Emily Bridges will begin to compete in women's events as her testosterone levels have now dropped low enough to meet the criteria set out by British Cycling for her to compete against women.

But in an open letter the group say the current rules around trans athletes are "discriminatory in that it advantages only biological male athletes".

Ms Bridges was due to race against Dame Laura Kenny in last week's National Omnium Championships but was blocked temporarily at the last minute.

According to the Guardian, a number of female riders had talked about boycotting the event because they felt Bridges, who was on the Great Britain Academy programme as a male rider until being dropped in 2020, had an unfair advantage over them.

Read more: Women 'discriminated against' in sport due to trans participation, ex-GB athlete claims

In the letter addressed to Lappartient and other UCI chiefs, the group of women said: "Recently female athletes in the UK have shown you that they were willing to boycott their own National Championships to get the UCI and British Cycling to hear their concerns about fairness in sport.

"That is how seriously female athletes are taking this issue and we greatly respect what our sisters were willing to sacrifice to have their voices heard. We are saddened that this should ever have been necessary.

"We believe that rule 13.5.015 does not guarantee female athletes 'fair and meaningful' competition as the UCI has promised.

"We believe that the rule 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.

"We ask that unless the UCI can provide robust scientific evidence that the rule guarantees fairness for female athletes, that the UCI rescind rule 13.5.015 effective immediately and implement eligibility criteria for the female category that is based on female biological characteristics."

Read more: Government's landmark LGBT+ conference cancelled amid conversion therapy row

Cycling stars Yvonne McGregor and Mandy Bishop also signed their name in support of the letter.

In response a British Cycling spokesperson said: "We understand that this is an important issue for our staff and riders, which is why we have worked hard to provide forums for them to openly share their views on our policy and transgender inclusion more widely.

"These discussions are an important part of our commitment to learn and understand more about how the sport sector can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes."

Ms Bridges, who won the men's points race at the British Universities championships in February, started hormone therapy last year.

She recently met British Cycling's new regulations say competing cyclists must have had testosterone levels below five nanomoles a litre for 12 months before an event.

Read more: Trans women can be banned from single-sex changing rooms and toilets, watchdog finds

Previously, Ms Bridges told Cycling Weekly: "After starting hormone therapy I didn't want to race in the male category any more than I had to – obviously, it sucks, getting dropped, racing as a man when you're not one."

Its decision to allow Ms Bridges to take part caused controversy.

With former Olympic swimming medallist Sharron Davies branding the decision "a blatant fudge".

She posted online: "It’s not transphobic to want fair sport, it’s anti female to not!"

It followed fallout from Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer whose recent victory in a women's race in the US sparked outrage in some quarters, with politicians wading in and some athletes raising worries about physical differences between competitors' bodies.

Others have defended the decision to allow transgender competitors in the gender events they identify with.