'British Cycling pulled trans policy because of public pressure' — Emily Bridges

Cyclist said she received threats of physical violence after Boris Johnson said trans women should not compete in women's events

Emily bridges original context only
(Image credit: Future/Andy Jones)

Emily Bridges has criticised British Cycling for the way the governing body changed its policy on trans and non-binary athletes earlier this year, saying the decision was made due to "public pressure".

The sports governing body in the UK blocked trans riders from competing after suspending its policy on transgender and non-binary athletes earlier this year, pending a full review.

The move, announced in a press release in April, came a week after Bridges was stopped from competing at the National Omnium Championships by the UCI.

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

Speaking to ITV News, the trans athlete said: "It just felt like, because it was so last minute, it was just really messed up and there were just so many oversights. It feels like, why wasn't it checked earlier?"

"It was incredibly difficult because I knew that my main goal for the season, the Commonwealth Games, was then out of the question because I couldn't race this event," she continued. "It was unlikely I was going to be able to race any international events during the Welsh Cycling's set timeframe for the selection. So the Commonwealth Games were gone. I feel a real pride about being Welsh and I wanted to represent my country at the highest level

"Things were looking really good and then it seemed like someone leaked my participation, my potential participation, in the Omnium to the press and then it kicked off.

"So obviously it came at very last minute, but I'd say that there's potentially a lot of public pressure to stop me racing. I think there's a lot of public pressure to pull the policy and I think that's why it was it was pulled."

>>> 'I just want to be competitive again': Trans cyclist Emily Bridges on preparing to race in the female category

At the time of pulling the policy, BC promised to have a "full review" which it said would "be initiated in the coming weeks". However, Bridges said she has not been contacted by the organisation.

"I’ve heard nothing from them," she explained. "They said that they'd be in touch about the procedure, about how they were going to make the new policy. But I haven't heard anything.

"So, either they're not doing anything or they're not doing what they said in their email to me and including me in making a policy."

After the prime minister spoke out against trans athletes competing against cis athletes, Bridges said she had threats made against her online.

"It's really strange to see probably the most famous man in Britain talking about you and having an opinion on something that he doesn't know anything about," she said,

"The response after that was as expected, I had threats of physical violence made against me by complete strangers online."

"I'm scared a lot of the time about being who I am in public," Bridges continued. "Is someone going to recognise me? They were real concerns and it was a real fear that I had after the comments were made, and it was scary. I was scared."

This week riders spoke out about the "hateful agenda" of mainstream media after Bridges won a fixed gear crit race which was run - as advertised - outside of traditional gender categories. 

Jo Smith, who finished third in that event, told Cycling Weekly: "I was absolutely furious about the media, and a huge amount of individuals on Twitter, using this race result to 'prove' their agenda. There's no way the national news would be interested in a small, unsanctioned fixed crit on a Friday in any other circumstance!

"The media have used a result blindly to fuel their agenda."

Emily bridges original context only

(Image credit: Future)

Bridges said she just wants the chance to compete in races and for selection as a female.

"When the time comes that I am selected, or put in a pool for selection, I will compete with other athletes as they do, as they compete with their fellow athletes, for spots," she said.

"Only a certain number of people can be selected. I don't want special treatment from anyone, I just want the same opportunities as my fellow female athletes."

She also argued that her performance has been massively impacted by her transition, and she lags behind cis-women in some aspects.

"My performance has decreased massively across aerobic performance," she aaid. "I've lost more than the gap is between male and female athletes. Over explosive distances, I've gotten worse comparatively

"I am not near the top female athletes when it comes to explosive power. They're fundamentally better than I am from that standpoint, which is the same as I was pre-transition."

Bridges urged her critics to pay attention to the research that is going on, and argues that any advantages she had pre-transition are gone.

"Watch them take muscle cores out of my muscles, to physically cut me open, and take muscle from me to store and to look at under a microscope to investigate the changes," she said.  

She urged critics, who suggest she might intentionally underperform in the tests, to "watch me doing a VO2 max test, to look how hard I go, to look at the line, to look at the way my oxygen and CO2 is to show that I am giving my absolute all - it is laughable."

The 21-year-old has accidentally become a flag-bearer for trans athletes, but she says she will not stop yet.

"I just want to make things better for other people, so I have to keep going," Bridges concluded. "I've got the opportunity and I've got to keep going and I feel like I've got the strength to keep going, to make things better for the people that come after me," she says.

"That's the goal to kind of make people feel more comfortable in who they are and to hopefully make cycling and sport a more welcoming place."

Responding to Bridges' comments in the interview, a British Cycling spokesperson said: "We are determined to ensure that cycling is a welcoming and inclusive place for all, and we are working hard to find a better answer to the challenge of balancing inclusion and fairness in competition which is shared by many other sports. In doing this we have called on a coalition of organisations and voices, both within and outside of sport, to come together so that we can provide all athletes with the clarity and certainty they deserve.

"We believe that it is important that there is consistency between our Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy and the policies and guidance held by other governing bodies and key stakeholders. For this reason, we are currently undertaking a full and thorough review of our policy and will share further details on the framework for this in the coming weeks.

"We sincerely apologise for the uncertainty caused by the suspension of our policy, particularly for the transgender and non-binary communities and women in our sport, and we will be actively engaging with these communities as part of our policy review."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.