Sports advantage?  British track cyclists angry at transgender ‘unfair competition’ Emily Bridges

Sports advantage? British track cyclists angry at transgender ‘unfair competition’ Emily Bridges

A looming uprising at British cycling last week led to controversy over the entry of a transgender rider who is suddenly defining the British sporting world. 21-year-old Emily Bridges, who broke some records with young males until 2018, has revealed that she is transgender. Last week I competed in the British National Championships on the track for the first time.

However, she was denied participation by the UCI International Cycling Federation. She was still registered as a man, which is the official reason. Basic pressure has also already been implemented: some opponents have threatened a boycott, or “crisis situation,” if Bridges participates. They feared the unfair competition that would result.

Whether or not you are allowed to participate depends on the athlete’s testosterone level. In cycling, this rule is stricter than in other sports. A rider must have had a testosterone level of less than five nanomols per liter for at least one year. For a man, this number is usually between 10 and 35, and for women it is less than three.

Emily Bridges

Much slower than when she was a male

According to Bridges, her testosterone level dropped below three within a week after hormone therapy. She is also much slower now than she was in her years as a man. This is necessary, because on average a woman’s performance drops by about 10 to 15 percent in the same portion of the time that is measured.

However, there was a lot of controversy surrounding her since she wanted to participate in a women’s competition. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now also commented on this issue: He does not believe that people born as men should play sports against women.

The British Cycling Federation decided on Friday to suspend the rules for transgender participation for the time being, “pending a full investigation”. The British Federation, the British Olympic Committee and the Paralympics have already referred the matter to the International Cycling Union, recommending stricter rules and not just focusing on testosterone levels. The UCI responded positively to the BBC last week through Chairman David LaPartint. According to Lappartient, additional rules are needed. “I don’t think base testosterone is enough. We can’t solve this on our own, so we have to work together.”

LaPartint also touched on a point about which there is still a lot of uncertainty. A person who goes through puberty as a young man has an advantage over young women. Research shows that this difference appears to persist for years to come. LaPartint: “The question is whether your body has a memory. Are you taking advantage of that? Are we dealing with unfair competition here?”

Unions and federations have their own rules

The UCI president wants to see if clear, unambiguous rules can be established with the many sports federations. Many authorities are currently making their own rules. This applies, for example, to the USA Swimming Association, which saw transgender Leah Thomas win everything in last year’s student competition.

If a transsexual now wants to participate in an American swimming competition, she must be less than five nanomols per liter for three years, and then puberty must not lead to an athletic advantage. At the end of April, the International Triathlon Federation will establish its own new rules.

The debate about transgender people in sports is certainly not new. Last July, Laurel Hubbard became the first transgender person to compete in the Olympics. As a weightlifter, she competed in the over 87kg weight class. She failed to successfully complete any of her three attempts.

Bridges heard it herself on Instagram shortly after she was told not to be allowed to participate. It wasn’t long before her account was set to “private.” “I feel insulted and demonized. No one should have to choose between who they are or participate in the sport they love.”

Read also:

The split between men and women in sports: is it possible?

Who is considered a woman at the (top) sport? There is heated debate about this question. How fair is inclusiveness? Is discrimination really unfair? Read this article, starting in 2019 but still current.

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