Female cycling stars ‘threatened to BOYCOTT’ national championships if trans rider Emily Bridges was allowed to compete as international governing body bans her from racing and calls ‘expert panel’ to ratify decision
- Emily Bridges began hormone therapy in 2021 and can now compete as a woman
- However, she has been barred from competing in women’s race this weekend
- Sport’s international governing body said she was ineligible following a row
- But it has been described as a ‘fudge’ that will allow her to compete as a woman
- Bridges’ registration as a man will expire and she will apply again as a woman
Female riders threatened to pull out of an event en masse until transgender cyclist Emily Bridges was barred from racing against them and Olympic hero Dame Laura Kenny in a women’s event this weekend, it was revealed today.
Emily Bridges, 21, is said to be ‘disappointed’ that she will now not compete against five-time Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny in the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday – but the decision has been branded a ‘blatant fudge’.
She was forced out of the event sport’s international governing body the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said the controversial cyclist, who competed at the highest level as a man just a few weeks ago and held the UK national junior men’s record over 25 miles, was ineligible.
But Sharron Davies, the former Olympic swimming star, called the decision ‘a blatant fudge’, because it appears she will soon be allowed to compete in women’s races. The UCI plans to convene an ‘expert panel’ to deliberate before she can compete in the female category in the next six weeks.
Ms Davies said: ‘It would not have been fair to ask Laura Kenny and the other women cyclists that Bridges would have come up against to have to race a rival with the advantages of a biological man. No amount of testosterone reduction can mitigate that, but we’re being told to turn a blind eye to science and biology, to keep quiet and suck it up’.
Miss Bridges has been told she has to wait until current UCI registration as a male rider expires and then she can re-register and compete as a woman, according to The Guardian.
Ellie Baker, who was fourth at the European 800 metres indoor athletics championship, told the Telegraph: ‘We may as well just say goodbye to women’s sport now’ if a separate transgender category is not created.
She added: ‘Unfortunately in sport you can’t have blurred lines. I would refuse to race and hope that the other women would stand with me on this. This is totally unfair. The advantages a trans woman has had from going through puberty as a boy to a man can never be undone.’
There has been a huge backlash against the inclusion of Bridges, who was on the Great Britain Academy programme as a male rider called Zach Bridges and raced in men’s events as recently as last month.
The trans woman began hormone therapy last year and was previously declared eligible to compete as a woman under British Cycling’s policy as she lowered her testosterone to the required level.
Bridges, pictured here in August 2018 competing as a man, Zach, had set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in the same year and competed as a man until just a few weeks ago. Now known as Emily Bridges was going to race against women including Laura Kenny this weekend but this has been stopped at the 11th hour due to a technicality
Trans cyclist Emily Bridges has been barred from competing in a women’s omnium race against Dame Laura Kenny this weekend
Emily Bridges, seen here riding in the male Tour de Gwent in April 2018 as Zach Bridges, before she began her transition. Her inclusion in women’s events has left some female cyclists ‘distressed’
Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies (pictured) has compared the advantages of being a trans woman in female sport to the advantages gained by drug cheats. She has called the decision a ‘fudge’
British Cycling said today it recognised Bridges’ ‘disappointment’ with UCI’s decision that she couldn’t take part under current guidelines.
Emily Bridges began hormone therapy last year and was previously declared as eligible to compete in women’s events by British Cycling
It said: ‘We acknowledge the decision of the UCI with regards to Emily’s participation, however we fully recognise her disappointment with today’s decision.
‘Transgender and non-binary inclusion is bigger than one race and one athlete – it is a challenge for all elite sports.
‘We believe all participants within our sport deserve more clarity and understanding around participation in elite competitions and we will continue to work with the UCI on both Emily’s case and the wider situation with regards to this issue.
‘We also understand that in elite sports the concept of fairness is essential.
‘For this reason, British Cycling is calling for a coalition to share, learn and understand more about how we can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.
‘Within recent years, we’ve seen huge advancements in the science and testing around elite sports, the broader scientific and understanding of human biology, developments in protection provided by the law, and crucially a greater respect for the psychological and societal challenges of those who are transgender and non-binary.
‘This is a complex area and by uniting, we can share resources and insights.
‘We know that some of these conversations are happening in pockets of the sporting world, but we want to encourage all sporting governing bodies, athletes, the transgender and non-binary athlete community, the Government and beyond to come together and find a better answer.
‘Across sports, far more needs to be done, collectively, before any long-term conclusions can be drawn.’
The previous decision by British Cycling to allow Bridges to ride in women’s events has been heavily criticised.
She continued to compete as a man (pictured competing in a male race in 2018) after coming out as a transgender woman, winning the points race at last month’s British Universities’ Championships, as well as bronze in the men’s team pursuit
Emily Bridges, 21, was set to compete against five-time Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny (pictured right with husband Jason) in the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday before the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said the controversial cyclist was ineligible for the competition
Former Olympic medal-winning swimmer Sharron Davies says she has been contacted by a number of women cyclists who are afraid of the consequences of speaking out.
Davies won silver in the 400-metre medley at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
She has called for the protection of female-only sports and the creation of an ‘open’ category to include trans athletes, says she ‘absolutely support anybody who chooses to identify as the opposite sex’.
But she says she believes Bridges and other former male athletes competing against women hold an ‘unfair advantage’.
‘We can have inclusion and fairness, we just have to put fairness first,’ Davies told GB News.
‘If you look across Olympic sports, and that includes cycling, you are looking at a 10 to 20, even 30 per cent in weight-lifting difference, which is absolutely vast and anyone who has gone through male puberty will not be able to mitigate against all those advantages.
‘At the moment we spend millions trying to spot people having the tiniest advantage by taking drugs so that they’re cheating, but yet women are supposed to move over so that males are able to come into their sports and just give up their trophies, their wins, their places their scholarships. It just seems so incredibly unfair.’
She added: ‘British Cycling ought to be ashamed of themselves.
‘I have had quite a few of the girls very distressed on the phone. They are frustrated and disappointed.
‘They are all for inclusion but not at the loss of fairness and opportunities for biological females.
‘I can’t see how this isn’t sexual discrimination in the tallest order. Reducing testosterone does not mitigate male puberty advantage.
Bridges, who began hormone therapy last year and is now eligible to compete as a woman under British Cycling’s policy, is also still currently listed as ‘male’ on her British Cycling profile
Davies, who has called for more current and former athletes to speak-up in the row (pictured: Her recent Tweet), says she has been contacted by a number of women cyclists who are afraid of the consequences of speaking out against the inclusion of former male sports stars
‘Emily retains an unfair advantage. She competed with the men’s team very successfully last year whilst reducing testosterone.
‘This is wrong and people must start calling it out or lose sport for future generations of young girls.’
Former Olympic swimmer Davies compared the advantages of being a trans woman in female sport to the advantages gained by drug cheats.
The British silver medalist contrasted how sports governing bodies were ‘spending millions’ trying to spot athletes who are doping while simultaneously allowing biological males to compete in female competitions.
A well-placed source added: ‘Everyone is afraid to say anything for fear of retribution.’
In 2018, Bridges set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles.
Her time of 47min 27sec was more than two minutes faster than Hayley Simmonds’ female senior record.
She was dropped from the GB Academy shortly before she came out as a transgender woman in 2020.
But Bridges continued to compete as a male, winning the points race at last month’s British Universities’ Championships, as well as bronze in the men’s team pursuit.
While not a member of Britain’s women’s track endurance squad, she could be added in time for the next Olympics if her performances merit selection, and she would be eligible under the current rules.
British Cycling updated its transgender policy in January ‘based on objective scientific research, driven by a desire to guarantee fairness and safety within the sport’.
It said that ‘testosterone levels remain the primary method of determining which members are eligible to compete in the male and female categories’.
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