A transgender cyclist says she has been “harassed and demonised” by the media after the UCI, world cycling’s governing body, ruled she could not compete at the National Omnium Championships in the United Kingdom over the weekend.
Emily Bridges, who was set to race against British Olympic stars such as Laura Kenny in the event, said she found out through British Cycling on Wednesday that the UCI had ruled she was ineligible.
The 21-year-old said in a statement she has been in contact with British Cycling and the UCI for the past six months ahead of what was supposed to be her first race in a women’s event.
“At that time, I have provided both British Cycling and the UCI with medical evidence that I meet the eligibility criteria for transgender female cyclists, including that my testosterone limit has been far below the limit prescribed by the regulations for the last 12 months,” Bridges said in her statement, which was posted by LGBTQIA+ cycling group PRiDE OUT.
As of March 1 2020, UCI regulations state that transgender women must reduce their testosterone levels to below 5 nmol/L for at least 12 months in order to compete in women’s events.
The UCI did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. CNN has reached out to Bridges directly but has yet to hear back.
However, the Guardian reported the UCI prevented Bridges from competing because it said she was still registered as a male cyclist and therefore ineligible to compete as a female until her male UCI identification expired.
“I am an athlete, and I just want to race competitively again,” Bridges’ statement continued. “No one should have to choose between being who they are, and participating in the sport that they love….
“As is no surprise with most of the British media, I’ve been relentlessly harassed and demonized by those who have a specific agenda to push. They attack anything that isn’t the norm and print whatever is most likely to result in the highest engagement for their articles, and bring in advertising.
“This is without care for the well-being of individuals or marginalized groups, and others are left to pick up the pieces due to their actions.”
Bridges initially posted the statement on her Instagram account, but has since made the account private.
On Wednesday, British Cycling released a statement calling for a coalition to address transgender and non-binary participation in sport. While British Cycling said they “acknowledge” the UCI’s decision, they also “fully recognize” Bridges’ disappointment with the outcome.
“Transgender and non-binary inclusion is bigger than one race and one athlete – it is a challenge for all elite sports,” the statement read.
“We believe all participants within our sport deserve more clarity and understanding around participation in elite competitions and we will continue to work with the UCI on both Emily’s case and the wider situation with regards to this issue.
“We also understand that in elite sports the concept of fairness is essential. For this reason, British Cycling is today calling for a coalition to share, learn and understand more about how we can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes.
“Across sports, far more needs to be done, collectively, before any long-term conclusions can be drawn.”
Among the female athletes to express opposition to Bridges’ inclusion in the event was British 800m runner Ellie Baker, who labeled the original decision as “ridiculous.”
“How this has been allowed to happen is just ridiculous,” she wrote on Twitter. “I would refuse to race and hope that the other women would stand with me on this too. This is totally unfair. The advantages a trans women has had from going through puberty as a boy to a man can never be undone.”
Fellow athletes Seren-Bundy Davies and Jessie Knight were among those to express support for Baker’s post, as well as former British swimmer Sharron Davies.
In the velodrome, 19-year-old Sophie Lewis won the title at the National Omnium Championships.