A biologically male cyclist who now identifies as female was barred from competing in a women’s championship race this weekend, following threats of boycott from female competitors.
Emily Bridges, who formerly competed against men as Zach Bridges, was cut from the women’s British National Omnium Championship on Saturday.
This would have been Bridges’ first race against women. The athlete only began hormone therapy last year, according to the BBC.
Bridges was determined “ineligible” to compete by the UCI, cycling’s governing body, after women threatened to boycott the race.
“Bridges – who set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in 2018 – had been due to compete against several British Olympians, including Dame Laura Kenny, in her first race in the women’s category,” The Guardian reported. “However the UCI ruled the 21-year-old, who began hormone therapy last year to reduce her testosterone levels, was currently not compliant with its regulations as she is still registered as a male cyclist – and therefore cannot compete as a woman until her male UCI ID expires.”
The Guardian noted that the UCI’s decision “came amid a growing backlash from within the sport, with the Guardian understanding that a number of female riders were talking about boycotting the event in Derby because they felt that Bridges, who was on the Great Britain Academy programme as a male rider until being dropped in 2020, had an unfair advantage.”
The BBC noted that the UCI can bar Bridges from cycling against women even if the athlete meets “eligibility criteria,” in an effort to “protect health and safety” and “guarantee fair and meaningful competition that displays and rewards the fundamental values and meaning of the sport.”
The issue of biologically male transgender athletes competing against women has taken center stage in the U.S., too.
A former male swimming competitor named Will Thomas started competing, and dominating, in women’s collegiate swimming after the athlete began to identify as female and go by the name “Lia.”
The backlash was huge, though females most directly affected by the “inclusion” were reportedly intimidated to stay quiet.
One Virginia Tech swimmer, though, spoke out publicly after a teammate was crushed by Thomas, who handily took first place in the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship 500-yard freestyle.
“It’s a common conception that we are all very disappointed and frustrated with someone who has capabilities more than us women have,” the swimmer told Rapid Fire’s Savanah Hernandez, according to OutKick. “To be able to compete at this level and take opportunities away from other women.”
The female competitor was wearing a sticker that reads, “Say no to males competing as females.”
“I’ve got a teammate who did not make the final today because she was just bumped out of finals,” the collegiate swimmer revealed. “It’s heartbreaking to see someone who went through puberty as a male and has the body of a male be able to absolutely blow away the competition.”
One of her teammates was brought to tears after she came in 17th place, missing the finals by one place, bumped by Thomas.
“She was very emotional, and it’s hard to see because it’s her last NCAAs; she really loves that race, and it was just heartbreaking that she put all of her efforts into it today … one of the best times that’s she went in a morning session and still not make it back,” the swimmer described. “It’s hard to see someone who works every day and every night still not be able to compete against someone like that.”