A UCI regulations stipulate that a transgender athlete has to prove they have been living “in the gender role of their declared sex for at least two years.” The UCI race rules committee is considering altering these guidelines, which could lead to an unprecedented victory in trans rights and sports, or it could raise questions about what other criteria should be met by athletes before competing on the international stage.
The “transgender athletes olympics” is a topic that has been in the news lately. Emily Bridges, a UCI athlete and transgender woman, was disqualified from competing in the Olympics because she did not meet eligibility criteria.
Emily Bridges previously achieved a national junior men’s record over a distance of 25 kilometers and was chosen to join British Cycling’s elite academy in 2019.
Even if transgender cyclist Emily Bridges passes their qualifying standards, cycling’s international governing body has the right to exclude her from racing in women’s competitions.
Riders must have testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for a 12-month period before to competition, according to UCI rules.
The UCI, on the other hand, is required to provide circumstances that “protect health and safety” and “ensure fair and meaningful competition that demonstrates and rewards the sport’s essential ideals and purpose.”
Senior cycling experts feel these discretions are important in the situation of Bridges, who is 21 years old.
The UCI rules go on to declare that it wants athletes to be “incentivised to make the enormous commitments necessary to succeed in the sport” and that it “does not wish to discourage them.”
Meanwhile, British Cycling performance director Stephen Park feels that the “single largest challenge for Olympic sport” right now is transgender athletes’ participation.
“It’s critical to have the conversation and comprehend the challenges that sport faces,” he said.
Bridges was supposed to compete in the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday, which would have been her first women’s event.
The UCI, however, advised British Cycling on Wednesday that “under their present criteria, Emily is not qualified to compete,” according to British Cycling.
Because international ranking points are awarded at national championship events, the UCI notified British Cycling that Bridges’ participation might be limited until her ability to compete in international competitions is established. That procedure is still in progress.
Bridges, who started hormone therapy last year as part of her gender dysphoria treatment, said on Friday that the conclusion of her ineligibility had left her with “little clarity.”
Prior to her being thrown out of Saturday’s championships, Sport understands that British riders discussed taking action against Bridges’ participation, but they were afraid that expressing their views would be perceived as transphobic.
Bridges is also said to be in frequent communication with safeguarding staff from both British Cycling and Welsh Cycling.
Despite her absence, three banners with the slogan “rescue women’s sport” were put up during the women’s races in Derby to protest Bridges’ once-potential participation.
The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), a professional women’s cycling organization, stated both British Cycling and the UCI had “demonstrated injustice by not complying to their own qualifying rules” and demanded “clear clarity” on the decision to exclude Bridges from the Derby race.
Earlier this week, UCI president David Lappartient told Sport that the rules governing transgender athletes’ testosterone levels are “probably not enough.”
TCA agreed with Lappartient that “existing UCI transgender guidelines are insufficient and must be addressed,” according to TCA.
Bridges previously achieved a national junior men’s record over a distance of 25 kilometers and was chosen to join British Cycling’s elite program in 2019.
In an interview with Sky Sportsexternal-link in October 2020, she first came out as transgender, and she has talked about wanting to alter the culture and representation in competitive cycling.
Bridges continued to participate in men’s races while on hormone medication.
She was 43rd out of 45 riders in the top men’s criterium at the Loughborough Cycling Festival in May 2021, and she was second to last in the Welsh National Championship road race in September, a 12-kilometer lap behind the winner. Bridges’ last men’s race was at the British Universities Championships in Glasgow in February, when she won a men’s points race.
“No one should have to choose between being themselves and participating in their favorite sport,” she said.
“I’m a competitive athlete who just wants to race again. I’m hoping they’ll reconsider their decision in light of the rules.”