Emily Bridges has been temporarily banned by British Cycling from racing in women’s events after it suspended its transgender policy amid a growing revolt against plans to allow her to compete.
The governing body announced the move pending a “full review” of the policy, which was published in October 2020 and updated as recently as January.
It did so after Martina Navratilova, Daley Thompson and Sharron Davies joined more than 650 sporting figures in signing a letter calling for rules to be scrapped allowing Bridges to race in women’s events.
Bridges had been waiting to hear from the International Cycling Union (UCI) whether she would be allowed to switch from competing in men’s races.
British Cycling said in a statement: “When we developed and published our Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy, we did so with the intention of advancing the cause of promoting diversity and inclusion within the sport of cycling.
“Understanding that this is a fast-moving area of sports policy and scientific research, we committed to reviewing our policy annually or more frequently, as required, to reflect emerging circumstances.
“Due to the difference in the policies held by British Cycling and the UCI relating to the licensing process, it is currently possible for trans-female athletes to gain eligibility to race domestically while their cases remain pending with the UCI (or indeed in situations where they are deemed ineligible).
“This in turn allows those riders to accrue domestic ranking points which impact selection decisions for National Championship races, which is not only unprecedented in our sport, but is also unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing.
“We also understand that there are concerns regarding the extent to which our current policy appropriately reflects the Sports Councils’ Equality Group guidance, published in September 2021.
“As a result of this, on Wednesday 6 April the British Cycling Board of Directors voted in favour of an immediate suspension of the current policy, pending a full review, which will be initiated in the coming weeks.
“While the current policy was created following an extensive external and internal consultation, the review will allow us time for further discussion with all stakeholders, including women and the transgender and non-binary communities, as we strive to provide all within our sport with the clarity and understanding they deserve.
“As an organisation we remain committed to ensuring that transgender and non-binary people are welcomed, supported and celebrated in the cycling community, and the inclusion of these groups within non-competitive activities remains unaffected by the suspension. We will also continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our sport remains free of hate, discrimination and abuse in all forms, and that we prioritise the welfare of riders, volunteers, event organisers, commissaires and others that our sport can’t continue without.
“In the past week we have started in earnest our work to galvanise a coalition of organisations to come together to find a better answer, and have enjoyed productive discussions with national governing bodies and others across sport. The challenge is far greater than one event or one sport, and only by working together can we hope to find a timely solution, which achieves fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.”
Bridges’ mother, Sandy, posted a copy of British Cycling’s statement on Twitter, adding: “Dumped by email. We’ve just received this in our in box. We will be making a statement at some point during the next 24 hrs.”
Dumped by email
We’ve just received this in our in box
We will be making a statement at some point during the next 24 hrs pic.twitter.com/yXFhLHRHLq
— Sandy 💜💙❤ 🏳️🌈 Ally She/Her (@sullivansa1) April 8, 2022
Navratilova, Thompson and Davies became the most high-profile signatories yet to a petition asking the UCI rescind its rules governing transgender women unless it could provide “robust scientific evidence that the rule guarantees fairness for female athletes”.
Tennis legend Navratilova, decathlon icon Thompson and swimming star Davies have long been among the most outspoken critics of the inclusion of trans women in women’s sport.
Navratilova last month called for trans swimmer Lia Thomas to have an asterisk next to her name when winning women’s races, while Thompson and Davies both publicly thanked Boris Johnson this week after he said “biological males” should not be competing in female sporting events.
Those behind the letter to the UCI said on Friday a total of 652 people had now supported a letter originally singed by 76 women, including the head of Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic cycling team, Sara Symington.
The UCI’s medical rules current permits a trans woman to race in the female category if she has reduced the concentration if “the concentration of testosterone in her serum has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months”.
Scrapping what is rule 13.5.015 would see Bridges banned from riding in women’s races, including those featuring members of the Olympic team Symington heads.
The letter marked a major escalation in the row over whether Bridges, a former national junior champion as a male rider, should be able to switch categories.
She was blocked from a potential showdown with Dame Laura Kenny at last week’s National Omnium Championships while the UCI convened an expert panel to review whether she met its eligibility rules.
That could take up to six weeks, leaving Bridges facing missing a deadline to be considered for selection for this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
UCI president David Lappartient admitted last week that the sport’s current rules were “probably not enough” to balance fairness and inclusivity.
Bridges released a statement last week in which she called for answers from the UCI and said that she had been “relentlessly harassed and demonised” by people with an agenda.
UK Sport confirmed on Thursday it was ready to fund any eligible trans woman with Olympic or Paralympic medal potential, despite the Prime Minister’s call for their exclusion from female sport.