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The world governing body for sports cycling, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), banned trans-identifying males from competing in women’s cycling races on Friday.
The new policy reverses UCI’s previous policy that allowed men to compete in women’s sports if they had a plasma testosterone level below 2.5 nanomoles per liter for two years. The ban takes effect Monday.
“[UCI] has a duty to guarantee, above all, equal opportunities for all competitors in cycling competitions,” UCI President David Lappartient said in a statement. “Given the current state of scientific knowledge does not guarantee such equality of opportunity between transgender female athletes and cisgender female participants, it was not possible … to authorise the former to race in the female categories.”
The new policy will apply to any male who underwent puberty, regardless of how long they have taken hormones or how low their testosterone is. Trans-identifying males will still be able to compete, but they will be placed in the men’s category, which UCI renamed to “Men’s/Open.”
Despite UCI’s citation of the “state of scientific knowledge,” the organization left the door open for another policy reversal “as scientific knowledge evolves” and said it would look at financing research to study the effects of cross-sex hormones on athletes’ performance.
Further, Lappartient said that UCI “fully respects and supports the right of individuals to choose the sex that corresponds to their gender identity, whatever sex they were assigned at birth.”
UCI came under heavy scrutiny for defending its existing transgender policy as “based on the latest scientific knowledge” after biological male Austin Killips handedly won several women’s competitions, including the women’s Belgian Waffle Ride in Asheville, North Carolina, last month.
Paige Onweller, who was a distant second to Killips, said the trans-identifying winner’s “power is not comparable” to the women he raced and that she “couldn’t match” him.
She proposed a solution, saying, “In the future, I feel a separate category may be appropriate but event promoters are also learning what is best to preserve both female cycling while also creating an inclusive space for all to ride.”
Three-time Olympic cyclist Inga Thompson called for a protest of UCI amid the Killips controversy, saying the organization was “effectively killing off women’s cycling.” Because of her stance, Thompson was subsequently dropped from the board of directors of Cynisca, an organization dedicated to promoting women cyclists.
UCI follows other sports in its ban of men in women’s sports as well as national-level cycling organizations. World Athletics, which governs international cross country and track and field competitions, banned men from women’s categories in March. British Cycling implemented similar policies banning men from the women’s category in May.