The International Cycling Union [UCI] is discussing the possibility of banning transgender athletes from female categories amid the outcry over Austin Killips’s first prize for women at the Tour of the Gila.
Killips’ victory in the premier road race in New Mexico prompted immediate calls for a rethink on rules drafted just last year and the governing body has now announced it is “reopening consultation”.
Telegraph Sport reported on Tuesday how UCI hierarchy is divided at the highest levels over calls to tighten international protections – but it now appears new rules could be agreed upon by August.
In a statement the body said on Thursday “participation of transgender athletes in international competitions was discussed” at a UCI management committee meeting.
“The management committee decided to analyse the current situation by reopening consultation with the athletes and national federations, and therefore agreed to debate and take an eventual decision at its next meeting, in Glasgow, in August.”
Since the UCI’s previous trans policy was announced last year, swimming and athletics have effectively banned athletes who have gone through male puberty in women’s elite competition. British Cycling has been reviewing the situation for more than a year and is also understood to be considering introducing a ban in domestic competition.
Leading British cyclists are scared to speak out against the sport’s policies
In its statement, the UCI added: “The UCI’s objective remains the same: to take into consideration, in the context of the evolution of our society, the desire of transgender athletes to practise cycling. The UCI also hears the voices of female athletes and their concerns about an equal playing field for competitors, and will take into account all elements, including the evolution of scientific knowledge.”
Simmering disenchantment among racers as well as rulemakers was laid bare after the biggest victory for a transgender rider in a women’s race so far.
Leading British cyclists privately say they are scared to speak out against the sport’s policies amid fears of being cancelled and losing sponsorship deals.
“The reason women don’t just refuse to start is that we have so few opportunities and so little sponsorship that we don’t want to lose any opportunity,” said one leading competitor who declined to be named.
One key advocate for better protections in women’s sport is British Cycling’s head of Olympic programmes, Sara Symington, who was among the signatories to a letter to the UCI last year pressuring the body to “guarantee fairness for female athletes”.
Fears that women may yet miss out on medals at the Olympics due to current rules
But Maria Blower, who represented Great Britain when women’s cyclists were first permitted in the Olympic Games in 1984, says competitors as well as administrators have been unable to agree on the sport’s best course of action because the mood is so toxic.
“There is disagreement within the UCI,” she said. “We know that some are on our side and some are clearly not. I know a lot of girls who are currently racing who are frightened. They don’t want to be bullied or to be seen as bigots. That’s why they smile on the podium. Everybody’s confused – we’re all angry but, while we’re sitting on our hands desperately worrying, nothing is being done.”
Permitted testosterone levels were reduced from five nanomoles per litre to 2.5nmol/l a year ago, which resulted in the British cyclist Emily Bridges being prevented from entering the British national omnium championships.
However, victory for Killips at the Tour of the Gila, the premier road race in New Mexico, has prompted warnings that women may yet miss out on medals at the Olympics because the rules do not go far enough.
On Tuesday, Sharron Davies, sports scientist Ross Tucker and Emma Hilton, a developmental biologist and co-founder of Sex Matters, led a renewed chorus of criticism for policymakers at the UCI.
This year’s running of the Tour of the Gila marked the first time in the event’s 36-year history that equal prize money had been offered, with a total purse of $35,350 (£28,145) in both the men’s and women’s races. Killips, who only took up cycling in 2019 before starting on hormone replacement therapy, earned almost £8,000 for finishing top of the women’s general classification, plus an £800 bonus as “Queen of the Mountains”.
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