Emily Bridges: UCI can stop transgender cyclist from competing even if she meets eligibility criteria

Emily Bridges previously set a junior men’s national record over 25 miles and was selected to join British Cycling’s senior academy in 2019.

Cycling’s world governing body has the power to bar transgender cyclist Emily Bridges from competing in women’s events, even though she meets their eligibility criteria.

UCI regulations require riders to have had testosterone levels below five nanomoles per liter for a 12-month period prior to competition.

However, those same regulations state that the UCI must establish conditions that “protect health and safety” and “ensure fair and meaningful competition that displays and rewards the core values ​​and meaning of sport.”

It is understood cycling figures believe those discretionary powers are relevant in the case of 21-year-old Bridges.

The UCI regulations go on to say that it wants athletes to be “encouraged to make the enormous commitments necessary to excel in the sport” and “does not want to risk discouraging them”.

Meanwhile, British Cycling performance director Stephen Park believes the inclusion of transgender athletes is currently the “biggest issue for Olympic sport”.

“It’s important to have the discussion and understand the challenges the sport is facing,” he said.

Bridges had to participate at the national omnium championships in Derby on Saturday – her first women’s event.

However, British Cycling said on Wednesday it had been informed by the UCI that “under their current guidelines, Emily is not eligible to participate”.

The UCI told British Cycling that as international ranking points are awarded at national championships, Bridges’ participation could only be allowed once his eligibility to compete in international competitions has been confirmed. This process is currently underway.

But on Friday, Bridges – who started hormone therapy last year as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria – said she had received “little clarity” around the finding of his ineligibility.

BBC Sport understands that before she was left out of Saturday’s Championships there were talks among British riders about taking action against Bridges’ inclusion, but they feared voicing their views would be interpreted as transphobic.

It is also understood that British Cycling and Welsh Cycling protection officers are in regular contact with Bridges.

Despite her absence, the only form of protest in Derby over Bridges’ potential inclusion was three banners displaying the words ‘save women’s sport’ held up during women’s races.

Professional women’s cycling union, the Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), said British Cycling and the UCI had “shown injustice by failing to meet their own eligibility criteria” and called for a “clarification transparent” on the decision to ban Bridges from competing in Derby.

Earlier in the week, UCI president David Lappartient told BBC Sport that the rules regarding permitted testosterone levels in transgender athletes were “probably not good enough”.

TCA said it agreed with Lappartient that “the existing UCI transgender guidelines are insufficient and need to be addressed.”

Bridges previously set a junior men’s national record over 25 miles and was selected to join British Cycling’s senior academy in 2019.

She first came out as transgender in a interview with Sky Sportsexternal link in October 2020, and spoke about wanting to change the culture and representation in elite cycling.

While on hormone therapy, Bridges continued to compete in men’s races.

In May 2021 she finished 43rd out of 45 riders in the elite men’s criterium at the Loughborough Cycling Festival and in September she finished penultimate in the Welsh National Championship road race, 12km from the winner. In February, Bridges won a men’s points race at the British University Championships in Glasgow – his last men’s race.

“No one should have to choose between being who they are and participating in the sport they love,” she said.

“I’m an athlete and I just want to run competitively again. I hope they reconsider according to the regulations.”

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