Inga Thompson: ‘I was shamed for speaking out about trans – this is why people stay silent’

Inga Thompson: 'I was shamed for speaking out about trans – this is why people stay silent' - Getty Images/David Madison

Inga Thompson: ‘I was shamed for speaking out about trans – this is why people stay silent’ – Getty Images/David Madison

Inga Thompson, the three-time Olympian publicly accused by cycling team Cynisca of “affecting its brand and reputation” for opposing biological males in women’s sport, has said she is “horrified” and “gobsmacked” by the statement but promised to continue advocating for fairness in the female category.

A five-time US national race champion, Thompson has led the criticism of cycling’s governing bodies that allowed Austin Killips to claim victory at last month’s Tour of the Gila, becoming the first transgender rider to win a UCI stage race. “It is time for women cyclists to start protesting UCI policy,” she wrote this week. “Start taking a knee at the starting lines. Team managers need to speak up and protect their riders.”

Cynisca, for whom Thompson had served as a director for seven months, issued a scathing response, saying: “If shared in the absence of politics, Inga’s knowledge and experience would benefit many and advance cycling for everyone.

However, she has decided to dedicate her time to excluding people who are otherwise and currently eligible to compete in UCI events. She has also attempted to use our team as a platform for her political activity.”

Thompson vehemently denies that claim, telling Telegraph Sport: “I have never once used Cynisca as a platform. The only thing that is accurate about that letter is that yes, I am advocating for women’s sports.

When I first had the statement sent to me, I thought it was an internal document. Then, about an hour later, I realised it was a public document, and I was horrified. This is exactly why people don’t speak up, because this is what happens when you do.”

She explained she had ceased to be a director for 10 days before Cynisca put out their scathing remarks. “I’m gobsmacked. I got taken off the team in late November, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I told them that I needed to step down because I needed to take care of my health.

“I went through surgery and had a double mastectomy. I’m cancer-free now. I don’t understand the retaliation here. I don’t throw wild stuff out there. I’m pretty measured. I have made it clear that I’m not attacking Austin, who is within rights to race. I’m attacking policy.”

Austin Killips - Belga/David PintensAustin Killips - Belga/David Pintens

Austin Killips – Belga/David Pintens

Cynisca, named after a Spartan princess and athlete, was founded last July, with the team’s stated mission to “help a diverse, young group of women in the industry reach the top tiers of cycling both on and off the bike. “I was so excited for the maiden voyage and launch of Cynisca,” Thompson wrote. “One press release, a brief pause, and they’ve become the Titanic.”

Thompson indicated that the manner of her departure had caused outrage among the female riders, contrary to Cynisca’s statement that her views on transgender cyclists had dissuaded some people from joining. “I have had girls reaching out to me, sending me notes, saying, ‘We’re so sorry this is happening to you’,” she said.

In the wake of the global furore unleashed by Killips’ win in New Mexico, attention in cycling is now firmly on the next move of the UCI, who have indicated that they are prepared to consider an outright ban on those born male competing as women.

Their next scheduled discussion of the issue is in August, and Thompson confirmed that she would continue agitating vigorously this summer, with a protest planned for next month’s US road championships in Tennessee.

“We want to have a protest with no banners, no flags, no bullhorns,” she said. “I love the beautiful simplicity of women standing with a T-shirt that just says: ‘Woman.’ How can they turn that into something transphobic?”

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