World sport plans crackdown on transgender athletes competing against women as Sally Gunnell speaks out

Major sports will attempt to form a new approach to allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s competition after cycling’s world governing body indicated that it is ready to introduce stricter measures.

The Union Cycliste Internationale blocked Emily Bridges’ proposed appearance in Saturday’s National Women’s Omnium Championships against Dame Laura Kenny, despite British Cycling accepting that she would meet guidance which requires her to lower testosterone levels to below 5nmol/L during the past year.

The UCI want first to agree an expert panel to confirm Bridges’ eligibility and its president, David Lappartient, has now revealed wider opposition within the women’s peloton to the rules allowing transgender athletes to compete.

Lappartient also referenced Sebastian Coe’s claim that the “integrity and future of women’s sport” is at stake and said that the current guidance regarding permitted testosterone levels is “probably not enough”.

Fina, swimming’s world governing body, have also announced a review of their guidance following Lia Thomas’s victory at the US College Championships and want to create an “industry standard” for endurance sports like swimming, cycling and athletics.

It comes after Ellie Baker, the middle-distance runner, became the first current British international to say that she would boycott a race involving a transgender woman. Her stance was endorsed on Wednesday night by Olympic gold medalist Sally Gunnell.

“Well said Ellie – us females past and present should stand together,” said Gunnell.

Bridges has been undergoing hormone-suppression therapy over the past year and, in an interview with Cycling Weekly magazine earlier this month, said that her power had dropped by between 13 percent and 16 percent across six-second, one-, five- and 20 -minute efforts after lowering her testosterone. Having been one of Britain’s leading young men’s riders, she finished second from last at the Welsh road race championships last September. “I’m now trying to power a bigger frame but with a much reduced engine,” she said.

Bridges could still race at the Commonwealth Games, and in British Cycling events that are not held under UCI regulations, but Lappartient wants to review cycling’s current guidance which has been adopted by British Cycling.

“I’m a little bit worried about that [their participation in women’s events] will affect the fairness of competition,” Lappartient told the BBC. “I believe that maybe the situation we have now, of the rules of five nanomoles per liter [to measure testosterone levels]is probably not enough.

“When I speak with some professors in medicine, some specialists, they say, ‘yes, your body probably has a memory already of what you are and so there is maybe some advantages’.

“Do you have a bridge on the fair competition? When you ask this question, it is not to challenge that fact that people want to do their transition. We fully respect that, fully respect to do the sport, but I can also understand from ladies [who] say ‘Ok we don’t accept this’. At the moment, also the union of women’s riders [are] completely against this and challenging the UCI on this. We are in between. We were challenged from all parts.”

The UCI have been in talks with various other Olympic associations and want it put urgently on the agenda of the Association of Summer International Olympic Federations – an umbrella body that also includes governing bodies for athletics, swimming, triathlon, football and rugby. “We can’t solve this alone,” said Lappartient. “We have to work together. We can’t just close our eyes as to what is happening.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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