The head of Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic cycling team has signed a letter calling for rules to be scrapped allowing Emily Bridges to race in women’s events.
Sara Symington, one of British Cycling’s most senior figures, is among 76 women to have written to the sport’s world governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI) asking for it to rescind its rules governing transgender women unless it could provide “robust scientific evidence that the rule guarantees fairness for female athletes”.
The UCI’s medical rules current permits a transgender woman to race in the female category if she has reduced “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 marks 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.
In the letter addressed to him and other UCI chiefs, the group of women made up of former elite cyclists, scientists, researchers, and other supporters expressed their “deep regret that it took a crisis situation to get us to the point where the UCI has admitted the rule 13.5.015 is ‘probably not enough’”.
They added: “Recently female athletes in the UK have shown you that they were willing to boycott their own National Championship competition to get the UCI and British Cycling to hear their concerns about fairness in their sport. That is how seriously female athletes are taking this issue and we greatly respect what our sisters were willing to sacrifice to have their voices heard. We are saddened that this should ever have been necessary.
“We believe that rule 13.5.015 does not guarantee female athletes ‘fair and meaningful competition that displays and rewards the fundamental values of the meaning of the sport’.
“We believe that the rule is asymmetric and thus discriminatory in that it advantages only biological male athletes by providing them greater opportunity to compete and enjoy the rewards of sport at its highest level.”
They also called for the UCI to “implement eligibility criteria for the female category that is based on female biological characteristics”.
Symington, who rode for Britain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, was performance director at England Netball and UK Athletics before returning to British Cycling in January.
Other British signatories of the letter include Yvonne McGregor, who won a track cycling bronze at Sydney 2000, and Mandy Bishop (née Jones), the 1982 world road race champion.
A British Cycling spokesperson said: “We understand that this is an important issue for our staff and riders, which is why we have worked hard to provide forums for them to openly share their views on our policy and transgender inclusion more widely.
“These discussions are an important part of our commitment to learn and understand more about how the sport sector can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.”
Bridges released a statement on Friday in which she called for answers from the UCI and said that she had been “relentlessly harassed and demonised” by people with an agenda.