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British Cycling suspends transgender and non-binary participation policy

British Cycling: "The British Cycling Board of Directors voted in favour of an immediate suspension of the current policy, pending a full review,"; British Cycling reiterated their commitment to transgender and non-binary people being welcomed, supported and celebrated in cycling

A general view of a Great Britain cyclist on their bike during a track cycling training session
Image: British Cycling has suspended its transgender and non-binary participation policy pending a full review

British Cycling has suspended its transgender and non-binary participation policy and will be performing a 'full review' in the coming weeks.

The suspension comes in the aftermath of Emily Bridges' failed attempt to enter a women's event at the British National Omnium Championships last weekend.

Bridges' mother says the 21-year-old has been "dumped by email" and a statement will follow in the coming 24 hours.

Bridges was due to compete in her first women's event in Derby, coming up against five-time Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny. However, British Cycling said it was informed by the UCI, cycling's governing body, she is not eligible under its current guidelines.

It is understood although British Cycling accepted she had met the requirements - current transgender regulations require riders to have had testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for a 12-month period prior to competition - the UCI has not yet granted her switch in licence.

Bridges came out as a transgender woman in October 2020 and continued to compete as a male during her transition, winning the men's points race at the British Universities' championships in February.

"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," a statement read.

"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."

A British Cycling statement continued: "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."

Bridges 'dumped by email'

Bridges' mum - Sandy Sullivan - shared the British Cycling statement on social media after it was released on Friday.

"Dumped by email," Sullivan said. "We've just received this in our inbox. We will be making a statement at some point during the next 24 hrs."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered the debate regarding transgender athletes, while UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday said it was up to individual sports to ensure their policies were fair to all.

PM: Biological males should not be competing in female sport

The Prime Minister said "biological males should not be competing in female sporting events".

Speaking to broadcasters on a hospital visit on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said: "I don't think biological males should be competing in female sporting events. Maybe that is a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible."

He continued: "I also happen to think that women should have spaces - whether it is in hospitals or prisons or changing rooms or wherever - which are dedicated to women.

"That doesn't mean that I am not immensely sympathetic to people that want to change gender, to transition and it is vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions."

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Boris Johnson has said 'biological males should not be competing in female sporting events', but adds there is still much to be discussed on what is a complex issue.

LGBT+ charity Stonewall warned against "inflammatory rhetoric" and says "blanket exclusions on trans people participating are fundamentally unfair". Stonewall insists inclusion policies "need to be considered on a sport-by-sport basis".

"Trans people deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy the benefits of sport, and blanket exclusions on trans people participating are fundamentally unfair," a Stonewall spokesperson told Sky Sports News.

"This is a complex and fast evolving issue and much of the science doesn't yet exist in this area. Inclusion policies need to be considered on a sport-by-sport basis and it's vital to avoid using inflammatory rhetoric - which often causes trans people to stop playing the sports they love.

"While elite sport often dominates these discussions, it only makes up a tiny proportion of all sport played in the UK. We know that trans people are also under-represented in community sport and often feel excluded.

"Two in five trans people (38 per cent) say they avoid going to the gym or participating in sports groups because they fear of discrimination and harassment. Sport has the unique power to bring us together and it's important that trans people have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport without facing exclusion or abuse."

'Decision is extremely damaging and unfair on trans people'

PRiDE OUT, an LGBTQIA+ cycling sports group, accused British Cycling of 'bending to political pressure' and urged both it and the UCI to act quickly to ensure trans people are properly included 'without exception'.

A statement read: "As the largest network of LGBTQIA+ cyclists in the UK, PRiDE OUT strongly believes in the inclusion of all trans people in cycling. Today's shocking and disappointing announcement from British Cycling appears to be bending to political pressure and cowing to the transphobic gender-critical movement.

"British Cycling's decision to immediately suspend their current trans and non-binary participation policy, due to it being a fast-moving area of sports policy and scientific research doesn't appear to make much sense. Assuming they have been in contact with the centres of excellence researching trans performance in sport, based at Loughborough and Brighton Universities, it raises the question where is the alleged fast-moving science coming from?

"When British Cycling launched its first transgender and non-binary participation policy in October 2020, it was celebrated as 'establishing the requirements for enabling participation and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in cycling at all levels'. The policy was reviewed six months later, and following a comprehensive eight-month consultation period, a further update was issued in January 2022.

"Simultaneously, in February 2021, British Cycling appointed a 12-strong panel of external members to form an external Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group to hold British Cycling to account on matters like this. Therefore we are presuming they must have been consulted on the policy, and somehow collectively given their approval.

"Why are we now in a situation where trans people appear to be banned from racing at an elite level in cycling, indefinitely? It also seems to put a question mark over the small number of trans people who are already participating in cycling sport, at non-elite level.

"British Cycling's two previous trans and non-binary policies, plus a wide-ranging consultation over the past 18 months, appears to have been a complete waste of time. This is extremely damaging and unfair on trans people who just want to take part in a sport that they love.

"We urge British Cycling and the UCI to do much more, and act quickly, to ensure trans people are properly included without exception."

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