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International cycling governing body UCI bars transgender women from participating in female category in all cycling events

According to existing rules, transgender women are permitted to participate in female races recognised by the UCI as long as their testosterone levels don't exceed 2.5 nanomoles per litre.

On Friday, July 14, the International Cycling Governing Body UCI announced that trans women cyclists (men who have transitioned to women), would be prohibited from participating in women’s events in all categories of cycling.

The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from August 5-12, 2023. In the first, 13 events will be contested across 7 disciplines and 32 athletes will compete in the road events.

UCI’s president David Lappartient said the federation “has a duty to guarantee, above all, equal opportunities for all competitors in cycling competitions”.

The new rules, which come into force on July 17, follow similar rulings by other Olympic sports such as athletics.

“The UCI would like to reaffirm that cycling – as a competitive sport, leisure activity or means of transport – is open to everyone,” Lappartient said in a statement.

But the current state of scientific knowledge does not guarantee such equality of opportunity between trans person female athletes and cisgender female participants, he added.

“As a precautionary measure, (it is not possible to) authorise the former to race in the female categories,” Lappartient added.

According to existing rules, transgender women are permitted to participate in female races recognised by the UCI as long as their testosterone levels don’t exceed 2.5 nanomoles per litre.

The International governing body declared on Friday that its management committee had decided to alter those regulations following further discussion with stakeholders and a review of the available scientific data, relevant legal issues, and human rights.

According to a statement, the assessment found that the previously allowed maximum testosterone level was insufficient to “completely eliminate the benefits of testosterone during puberty in men.”

The statement added: “Given the current state of scientific knowledge, it is also impossible to rule out the possibility that biomechanical factors such as the shape and arrangement of the bones in their limbs may constitute a lasting advantage for female transgender athletes.”

“At an extraordinary meeting held on 5 July, the Management Committee of the UCI decided to adapt the current UCI rules on the right of female transgender athletes to take part in competitions on the UCI International Calendar,” the UCI said.

“From now on, female transgender athletes who have transitioned after (male) puberty will be prohibited from participating in women’s events on the UCI International Calendar – in all categories – in the various disciplines.”

The UCI added that it was open to changing these rulings in the future as scientific knowledge evolves. “It would hold talks with other sporting bodies over a jointly-funded research programme aimed at studying changes in the physical performance of highly-trained athletes undergoing transitional hormone treatment,” the statement read.

Transgender women face restrictions in elite competition

Notably, this is not the first time that trans women had to face restrictions in elite competition. In May this year, British Cycling introduced its own new policy which barred transgender women athletes from competing in the women’s category.

On March 23, 2023, World Athletics, the international governing organisation for athletics, banned transgender women (men who have transitioned to women) from competing in the female category at international events. It said that transgender women who have been through male puberty will not be able to compete in female events starting March 31.

Last June, the World Aquatics Federation voted to prohibit transgender women from the elite competition if they had gone through any stage of male puberty. A scientific panel discovered that transgender women had a considerable advantage even after lowering their testosterone levels using medication.

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