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Emily Bridges, the trans cyclist who was hoping to race against five-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny in Britain’s National Omnium Championships on Saturday, has been barred from competing following an intervention by the sport’s international governing body (UCI).

The 21-year-old trans woman, who started hormone therapy in 2021, has met British Cycling’s stipulation that testosterone levels be reduced to 5 nanomoles per litre for at least a year, and had expected to compete in a women’s race for the first time. UCI regulations are given six weeks after a cyclist’s final blood test to convene a panel and, because the panel will not meet until after Saturday’s event, Bridges – who won a men’s ranking race in the British Universities Championships in February 2022 – cannot now compete in the women’s category. 

National and international sporting bodies are currently struggling to reconcile the rights of trans women to participate in sport with fairness to natal women. While many trans-rights campaigners claim that a reduction in testosterone levels is sufficient to level the playing field, opponents point to inherent advantages conferred by other factors, claiming that irreversible changes resulting from having gone through male puberty, and physical differences (shape of pelvis, for example), give trans women an unfair advantage. 

Responding to the ruling, British Cycling issued a statement, saying: “We have now been informed by the UCI that under the current guidelines Emily is not eligible to participate. We have been in close discussions with the UCI regarding Emily’s participation this weekend and have also engaged closely with Emily and her family regarding her transition.”

The statement continues, “We acknowledge the decision of the UCI with regards to Emily’s participation, however we fully recognise her disappointment with today’s decision.”

The UCI’s decision comes hot on the heels of the controversy over US swimmer Lia Thomas’ victory in the NCAA’s 500 yards freestyle event in Georgia. Fina, swimming’s global governing body, is now looking again at their rules, with one suggestion being that the stipulation that testosterone be reduced to 5 nmoL/l for 12 months be extended to three years. 

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