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British Cycling announces controversial new policy on transgender cyclists

Federation creates new 'open' category in updated resolution

Emily Bridges

On Friday, British Cycling announced it will implement a policy that restricts transgender women from participating in female category bike races. The policy states that only individuals who were assigned female at birth will be allowed to compete. This decision comes after a nine-month review conducted by the federation. The resolution also follows several very public debates after American Austin Killips, a transgender cyclist, recently won the Tour of the Gila. Killips transitioned in 2019 and, following the win, was the subject of a flurry of vitriol on social media.

New category created by British Cycling

In a statement, British Cycling laid out the new rules.

“Transgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, and those whose sex was assigned male at birth will be eligible to compete in the ‘open’ category,” the statement read. “The ‘female’ category will remain in place for those whose sex was assigned female at birth and transgender men who are yet to begin hormone therapy. At this stage, they will be eligible to compete in the ‘open’ category only.”

British cyclist Emily Bridges reacts to new rules

In April 2022, British athlete Emily Bridges, who is transgender, was not allowed to compete on the track at the British National Championships in an 11th-hour decision. When this occurred, Bridges was confused as to why the move was made, and the federation did not offer much in the way of an explanation.

Bridges posted on Instagram about the decision. “British Cycling is a failed organization. The racing scene is dying under your watch, and all you do is take money from petrochemical companies and engage in culture wars. You don’t care about making sport more diverse, you want to make yourself look better, and you’re even failing at that. Cycling is still one of the whitest, straightest sports out there, and you couldn’t care less.”

The changes to the regulations will begin in 2023. “Successful implementation of the policy will require a period of time to enact changes to our digital systems,” British Cycling confirmed. Until then, all current racing licenses will be valid.

British Cycling CEO Jon Dutton said that the change may be hard on those cyclists affected.
“Our new policies are the product of a robust nine-month review process which we know will have a very real-world impact for our community both now and in the future,” Dutton said. “We understand that this will be particularly difficult for many of our trans and non-binary riders, and our commitment to them today is twofold.”

UCI to reopen policy review in August

The move by British Cycling follows similar policies enacted by World Athletics and World Swimming. Those federations have also banned transgender athletes who were biological males at puberty from competing in female categories.

Currently, the UCI allows transgender cyclists to compete in races, as long as their testosterone is under a certain threshold. The rule says cyclists must have less than 2.5 nanomoles per liter for the previous two years. It is possible this might change when the cycling body reopens talks on transgender policy in August in Glasgow. That decision to revisit the rules was an about-face compared to its original statement following Killips’s win.