British Cycling suspends trans athlete policy pending a full review

Organisation establishes "full review" into Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy

British Cycling
The women's peloton at the British national championships last year
(Image credit: Getty Images)

British Cycling has blocked trans riders from competing after suspending its policy on transgender and non-binary athletes, pending a full review.

The move, announced in a press release on Friday, comes a week after Emily Bridges was stopped from competing at the National Omnium Championships by the UCI.

It also follows Boris Johnson saying that he doesn't believe transgender women should compete in women's sport this week.

In the statement on Friday, British Cycling said: "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."

The decision was made due to a difference in the licensing policies between BC and the UCI, which British Cycling said was "unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing".

The statement said: "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."

The trans woman cyclist Bridges was due to take part in the omnium championships last weekend, but the UCI officially stated the reason her participation was not allowed was because she is still registered with them as a male cyclist, and therefore cannot compete as a woman until her male UCI ID expires.

Bridges has faced intense public scrutiny since Cycling Weekly first published her story last month, and in the intervening period she says she has "been relentlessly harassed and demonised". 

Public reaction has further raised the issue of inclusivity in sport for transgender athletes, while also focussing on the fairness and safety in women's sport. The prime minister said this week: "I don't think biological males should be competing in female sporting events. Maybe that's a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible."

Sandy Bridges, Emily's mother, said that the rider had been "dumped by email" in a tweet (opens in new tab). She added that a statement would be forthcoming.

An organisation set up to campaign for the "fair cycling sport for all female athletes", the Union Cycliste Feminine (opens in new tab), has sent a letter to the UCI arguing that the governing body's rule on trans athletes is not fair.

The letter has at least 652 signatories, including former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, former world champion Mandy Jones, and Lotto-Soudal DS Cherie Pridham.

The letter reads: "We believe that rule 13.5.015 does not guarantee female athletes “fair and meaningful** competition that displays and rewards the fundamental values and meaning of the sport” as the UCI has promised in rule 13.5.002-1 (** the only meaningful sport is fair sport, we request the word ‘meaningful’ be removed from this rule). 

"That it is the current consensus of experts in the scientific and sport medicine community the conditions of rule 13.5.015 cannot sufficiently mitigate all male sport advantage “in order to preserve the safety, fairness and integrity of the sport, for the benefit of all it’s participants and stakeholders” 13.5.002-1b. 

"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 it’s [sic] highest level."

It also says that female athletes were prepared to boycott British Cycling events if their policy was not changed.

In their statement, British Cycling said: "As an organisation we remain committed to ensuring that transgender and non-binary people are welcomed, supported and celebrated in the cycling community."

The full British Cycling 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.

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