UCI tightens rules for transgender cyclists: Two year wait before competition allowed

Changes following British rider Emily Bridges's move to compete will come into effect on 1 July 2022

Emily bridges original context only
(Image credit: Future)

The UCI has announced it will tighten the rules on transgender women competing in UCI sanctioned races from 1 July this year.

The move follows British trans woman Emily Bridges attempt to compete in the British omnium championships in April, which saw her transition to the women’s category blocked by the UCI at the last minute. British Cycling abandoned its own inclusion policy for trans women shortly after.

Under the new UCI rules trans athletes must wait 24 months before participating in events, up from 12 months.

The maximum permitted plasma testosterone level will also be lowered from 5 nmol/L to 2.5 nmol/L. The UCI said the value “corresponds to the maximum testosterone level found in 99.99% of the female population”.

The governing body said it took the decision to tighten the rules in light of new scientific studies carried out in 2020 and 2021 adding that the changes are intended to “promote the integration of transgender athletes into competitive sport, while maintaining fairness, equal opportunities and the safety of competitions”.

The impact of this announcement will be felt most keenly by riders like Bridges. The 21 year old came out publicly as a transgender woman in October 2020. Due to not being eligible to compete in events in the women's category last summer, she continued to race against men. Bridges had expected to compete in women’s events in 2022. 

Bridges's mother Sandy released a statement on social media that said Emily had only found out about the changes through the press.

She said: "As of 1pm today we've received no communication from the UCI on their plans & specifically how it impacts Em's current application which has been part of previous policy process and started in March 2022."

She added that Emily was asking for clarification from the UCI on why she'd been asked to provide additional blood tests if the body knew the rules were set to change.

She added: "As you cam imagine this uncertainty and moving of goalposts has created a significant amount of distress and upset to Em, to us as a family & the wider trans community."

The changes announced last night signal the first major change to the original UCI rules on the participation of transgender athletes since their inception in March 2020.

Full UCI statement

“The principle of eligibility of transgender athletes (in particular female athletes, ie those who have made a transition from male to female) is based on the reversibility under low blood testosterone (the level commonly observed in "born female" athletes) of the physiological abilities that determine sports performance, and on the time needed to achieve this reversibility.

The latest scientific publications clearly demonstrate that the return of markers of endurance capacity to "female level" occurs within six to eight months under low blood testosterone, while the awaited adaptations in muscle mass and muscle strength/power take much longer (two years minimum according to a recent study). Given the important role played by muscle strength and power in cycling performance, the UCI has decided to increase the transition period on low testosterone from 12 to 24 months. In addition, the UCI has decided to lower the maximum permitted plasma testosterone level (currently 5 nmol/L) to 2.5 nmol/L. This value corresponds to the maximum testosterone level found in 99.99% of the female population.

This adjustment of the UCI's eligibility rules is based on the state of scientific knowledge published to date in this area and is intended to promote the integration of transgender athletes into competitive sport, while maintaining fairness, equal opportunities and the safety of competitions. The new rules will come into force on 1st July. They may change in the future as scientific knowledge evolves.”

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