Emily Bridges leans on the handlebars of her bike
Emily Bridges, the British transgender cyclist, has piled the pressure on cycling’s governing bodies in the increasingly bitter stand-off over her exclusion from women’s racing by offering to prove that she has no competitive advantage.
In her first interview since being blocked from competing at the national omnium championships, Bridges told DIVA magazine that she had gone through some “pretty dark times” but predicted major change in the years to come.
The Union Cycliste Internationale and British Cycling had both required transgender women to prove that their testosterone levels had remained below 5nmol/L for 12 months before they could enter women’s races.
Bridges, who is also taking part in a study with experts at Loughborough University, met these limits but the UCI deferred her application to an ‘expert panel’ and British Cycling then suddenly suspended their transgender inclusion policy. This had followed a major backlash from hundreds of leading current and former women’s riders.
Elite British women’s riders felt so strongly that there was serious talk of boycotting the national omnium championships if Bridges was allowed to compete. A large group of former international riders, including Sara Symington, the current head of British Cycling’s Olympic programme, also signed a letter in which they called on the UCI to scrap its transgender inclusion guidance.
The UCI’s expert panel was expected to take up to six weeks over its decision and Bridges’ mother, Sandy Sullivan, says that they have received no explanation, contact or support from British Cycling since the end of March.
With World Swimming set to tighten its transgender guidance next month, the expectation among many women’s cyclists is that the UCI will quickly follow amid mounting concern over the prospect of legal action.
When asked what she would say to people who don’t think trans women have a place in elite sport, Bridges told DIVA publisher Linda Riley: “There are studies going on for trans women in sport. I’m doing one and the performance drop-off that I’ve seen is massive. I don’t have any advantage over my competitors, and I’ve got data to back that up.”
Bridges did win the men’s British University Championship points race earlier this year but had previously set a national junior men’s record. Other studies in transgender athletes have reported significant ongoing physical advantages even after testosterone has been suppressed.
Olympic champion Katie Archibald said that Bridges had been “let down” by the sport’s governing bodies but did also stress that inclusion should not come at the expense of “fairness”. Her comments were later endorsed by Dame Laura Kenny.
“I’ve been trying to take each day by day, get through the day and get to the other side, because there’s been some pretty dark times,” said Bridges.
“It’s awful to be told so close to the event, having been speaking to them since January. Over the past few weeks, I’ve just blocked it all out. There were two weeks where I completely deleted my social media because I knew that it was going to be too intense.
“It was wall-to-wall articles all the time. There’s so much hate and criticism that I just don’t look at it.
“Things will get better. The evidence shows that it is fair for trans women to compete in female sport. It might take a few years for things to change.” The UCI did not respond to the Telegraph’s request for comment.