Trans cyclist Emily Bridges: I have no performance advantage – and have the data to prove it

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EMILY BRIDGES

EMILY BRIDGES

Emily Bridges, the British transgender cyclist, says that she has the data to show that she would have no competitive advantage against other women.

In her first interview since being blocked from competing at the national omnium championships last month, Bridges told DIVA magazine publisher Linda Riley that she had gone through some “pretty dark times” after being stopped from racing despite appearing to meet cycling’s transgender inclusion guidelines.

The Union Cycliste Internationale and British Cycling both required transgender women to prove that their testosterone levels had remained below 5nmol for 12 months before they could enter women’s races.

Bridges, who is also taking part in a study with experts at Loughborough University, produced data to show that she met these limits but the UCI deferred her application to an ‘expert panel’ and British Cycling suddenly suspended its transgender inclusion policy.

Her mother, Sandy Sullivan, says that they have since received no explanation from British Cycling.

When asked what she would say to people who don’t think trans women have a place in elite sport, Bridges told DIVA magazine: “There are studies going on for trans women in sport. I’m doing one and the performance drop-off that I’ve seen is massive. I don’t have any advantage over my competitors, and I’ve got data to back that up.”

Bridges had previously also discussed some of this data in an interview with Cycling Weekly magazine. This reported reductions of around 13-16% in power outputs across various time durations. “The reduced testosterone has a direct effect on the main determinants of VO2max – red blood cells, haemoglobin, haematocrit – which drop to female levels within five months,” she said.

Bridges did still win the men’s British University Championship points race earlier this year, ahead of her expected competitive switch to women’s racing. Other studies in transgender athletes have reported significant ongoing physical advantages even after testosterone has been suppressed.

British women’s riders felt so strongly about the issue that there was talk of boycotting the national omnium championships if Bridges was allowed to compete. A large group of former riders, including Sara Symington, the current head of British Cycling’s Olympic programme, also signed a letter in which they called on the UCI to change its transgender inclusion guidance.

There is, though, sympathy for Bridges within the sport. Olympic champion Katie Archibald said that she had been “let down” by the sport’s governing bodies but did also stress that inclusion should not come at the expense of “fairness”. Her comments were later endorsed by Dame Laura Kenny.

‘There have been some pretty dark times’

Bridges, who is 21, had even been named in a provisional Great Britain women’s squad ahead of the Nations Cup and then the Commonwealth Games. “I’ve been trying to take each day by day, get through the day and get to the other side, because there’s been some pretty dark times,” she told DIVA magazine.

“It’s awful to be told so close to the event, having been speaking to them since January.”

She also said that she had stopped looking at social media, but stressed that she would not discourage other transgender athletes from following their dreams.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve just blocked it all out,” she said. “There were two weeks where I completely deleted my social media because I knew that it was going to be too intense.

“It was wall-to-wall articles all the time. There’s so much hate and criticism that I just don’t look at it.

“Things will get better. It’s not gonna be like this forever. The evidence shows that it is fair for trans women to compete in female sport. It might take a few years for things to change, but just keep going.”

Emily Bridges spoke to DIVA magazine for their June issue to coincide with Pride month.