British Cycling will ban transgender women from the female category of its competitions following a nine-month review and consultation, the BBC reports.
Under a new participation policy that the governing body said was “predicated on fairness”, such athletes will compete in an ‘open category’ with men.
The female category will be “for those whose sex was assigned female at birth”.
The changes will prevent rider Emily Bridges—the country’s highest-profile transgender cyclist—from potentially being part of the British women’s team.
Last year she was stopped from competing in her first elite women’s race by the UCI – cycling’s world federation – despite meeting the rules at the time.
British Cycling’s policy had allowed transgender women to take part in elite female events if they met testosterone-based regulations.
But with the governing body at the heart of the debate over balancing inclusion with fairness, its regulations were suspended amid mounting controversy about Bridges, and a review was launched.
“Research studies indicate that even with the suppression of testosterone, transgender women who transition post-puberty retain a performance advantage,” said British Cycling.
“Our aim in creating our policies has always been to advance and promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, while at the same time prioritising fairness of competition.
“We recognise the impact the suspension of our policy has had on trans and non-binary people, and we are sorry for the uncertainty and upset that many have felt during this period.”
However, this is not the end for gender-transitioning athletes in the competition.
Transgender women will be able to participate in non-competitive recreational and community cycling without restriction.
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The new policies will be implemented by the end of the year.
“We acknowledge the paucity of research at this time, but can only look at what’s available to use,” said British Cycling chief executive Jon Dutton.
“I am confident that we have developed policies that both safeguard the fairness of cycle-sport competition, whilst ensuring all riders have opportunities to participate.
“We have always been very clear that this is a challenge far greater than one sport. We remain committed to listening to our communities, to monitor changes in the scientific and policy landscape, to ensure that sport is inclusive for all.”
In March, UK Athletics also banned transgender women from competing in the female category in its competitions and events. There have been similar moves in swimming, triathlon, and both codes of rugby.
A number of studies have suggested transgender women retain cardiovascular and strength advantages compared to female athletes, even after taking testosterone-suppressing hormones.
Critics of transgender athletes’ participation in some women’s sports argue that gives them a disproportionate advantage over their peers and limits opportunities for their rivals.
However, others argue there is not enough detailed research in the area, that the science is not clear, and that with very few elite transgender athletes, sports should be more inclusive, with open categories criticised for being discriminatory.
British Cycling said its women-only community programme “will continue to remain open and inclusive for transgender women and non-binary people” who can “continue to participate in a broad range of British Cycling activities in line with their gender identities”.