Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon faced death threats and abuse after historic win

McKinnon became the first trans woman to win a track world title

Dr Rachel McKinnon has become the first transgender track world champion (Image: Twitter/ Rachel McKinnon)

Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon faced death threats and abusive messages after her world title win.

McKinnon became the first trans woman to win at the track worlds when she took gold in the women’s 35-44 sprint in California last month.

But after winning at the UCI Masters Track Cycling worlds in Los Angeles, McKinnon received an onslaught of online abuse.

McKinnon, who was born a biological male but identifies as a trans woman, told Canadian outlet CTV News: “It’s hard to get death threats and not read that as hurtful. It's hard to read tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of comments of being a woman and someone calling you a man.”

Many congratulated the Canadian, who is also an assistant professor of philosophy, on her win but the victory prompted negative response from some.

The third place finisher in the sprint, Jennifer Wagner, took to Twitter to call the result “not fair.”

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McKinnon posted on Twitter after the win: “This is what the double bind for trans women looks like: when we win, it’s because we’re transgender and it’s unfair.

“When we lose, no one notices (and it’s because we’re just not that good anyway). Even when it’s the same racer.

“That’s what transphobia looks like.”

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Replying to a tweet by Katie Hopkins, runner up Jennifer Wagner said: “I was the third place rider.

“It’s definitely not fair.”

McKinnon added that Wagner had beaten her in 10 of their last 12 races, including the 500-metre time trial earlier in the week.

Responding to the backlash around McKinnon’s win, the UCI released a statement on the eligibility of transgender women racing.

The statement said that the International Olympic Committee should announce guidelines on transgender women in competition and that the UCI will follow that guidance.

No details have yet been published by the IOC.

McKinnon said “This panic that trans athletes have this advantage just isn’t borne out in any evidence that we have.”

Transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2004 but under the requirement they had undergone gender confirmation surgery and been on hormone therapy for two years.

In 2015, these rules were relaxed to remove the need for surgery and the athletes must have a testosterone level below a certain limit for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.

Athletes who transition from female to male are allowed to enter in male competition without restriction.

But transgender athletes are due to face tighter restrictions by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as the maximum level of testosterone allowed will be halved.

A study by Loughbough University academics was carried out after the Rio 2016 Olympics after concerns about transgender athletes having an advantage.

After reviewing 31 national and international transgender sporting policies, including those of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Football Association and the Lawn Tennis Association, the study concluded that a majority unfairly discriminated against transgender people, especially trans women.

The researchers said that there is no evidence that transgender women have a sporting advantage over athletes born female.

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Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.