Sharron Davies slams ‘blatant fudge’ after transgender cyclist Emily Bridges is ruled out of Laura Kenny race

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Emily Bridges - Sharron Davies slams ‘blatant fudge’ after transgender cyclist Emily Bridges is ruled out of Laura Kenny race - FUTURE

Emily Bridges – Sharron Davies slams ‘blatant fudge’ after transgender cyclist Emily Bridges is ruled out of Laura Kenny race – FUTURE

Emily Bridges, the transgender cyclist who was due to race Laura Kenny in Saturday’s National Omnium Championships, has been forced to withdraw from the event by world cycling’s governing body.

However, the move failed to placate many, with Sharron Davies, the former Olympic swimming medallist, describing a statement from British Cycling as “a blatant fudge”.

British Cycling had accepted Bridges’s entry in the women’s omnium but, in a dramatic late intervention, the UCI have delayed their clearance for the 21-year-old to compete in elite women’s races. Under current UCI rules, a transgender athlete must show that they have lowered their testosterone levels to below 5nmol/L during the past year. Both Bridges and British Cycling expected that requirement to be met in time for Saturday but the UCI invoked an additional clause from their rulebook which allows them to convene an “expert panel” to ratify the decision within the next six weeks.

As the British national championship in Derby is an elite race, with UCI ranking points, it left Bridges ineligible. She could, however, still represent Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.

Bridges was part of the University of Nottingham men’s team that took bronze in the team pursuit at the British Universities’ Championships last March but has been undergoing hormone-suppression therapy. In an interview with Cycling Weekly earlier this month, she said that her power had dropped by between 13 and 16 per cent across six-second, one-, five- and 20-minute efforts after lowering her testosterone. “I’m now trying to power a bigger frame but with a much reduced engine,” she said.

In their statement, British Cycling confirmed that Bridges would not race against Kenny on Saturday but called for an urgent “sports coalition” to strike a balance between inclusion and fairness. Fina, world swimming’s governing body, are now also reviewing their transgender policy with a view to creating an “industry standard” across endurance sports. That follows the controversy earlier this month when Lia Thomas became the first openly trans swimmer to win an event at the US College Championships.

“We believe that transgender and non-binary people should be able to find a home, feel welcome and included,” said a British Cycling spokesperson. “We have been in close discussions with the UCI regarding Emily’s participation this weekend and have also engaged closely with Emily and her family regarding her transition and involvement in elite competitions.

“We acknowledge the decision of the UCI with regards to Emily’s participation, however we fully recognise her disappointment.”

British Cycling’s transgender guidance had also been challenged in parliament on Wednesday. “What urgent conversations is the minister having with British Cycling to ensure that elite female athletes such as Laura Kenny will not lose their places and have their records broken by British Cycling’s inability to echo section 195 of the 2010 Equality Act and implement the agreed guidance from the Sports Councils’ equality group on transgender inclusion in sport,” asked Tonia Antoniazzi MP.

The Sports Council’s report was published last October and, in concluding that trans women do retain advantages in strength and stamina even after reducing their testosterone, recommended that individual sports should deliver bespoke guidance. They also suggested that a new “open” or “universal” category could be considered.

Ellie Baker, who was fourth at the European 800 metres indoor athletics championship, said “we may as well just say goodbye to women’s sport now” if a separate transgender category is not created. “Unfortunately in sport you can’t have blurred lines,” said Baker. “I would refuse to race and hope that the other women would stand with me on this.

“This is totally unfair. The advantages a trans woman has had from going through puberty as a boy to a man can never be undone.”