UCI Reverses Course, Bans Transgender Women From Racing in Women's Category

UCI Reverses Course, Bans Transgender Women From Racing in Women's Category

In a significant development following British Cycling’s recent policy changes regarding transgender participation, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) made an announcement today introducing a major rule change. Effective from July 17th, the UCI declared that female transgender athletes who have transitioned after male puberty would no longer be permitted to compete in women’s events across all categories and disciplines on the UCI International Calendar.

Under the new guidelines, female transgender athletes will instead have the opportunity to compete in the Men/Open category, which has been renamed to accommodate their participation. The UCI emphasized that any athlete who does not meet the criteria for women’s events would be admitted without restrictions. Notably, the press release did not mention athletes who may have transitioned before puberty. Additionally, male transgender athletes would be eligible to compete in the Men/Open category.

The decision to implement these rule changes followed a seminar organized by the UCI on June 21st, which brought together transgender and cisgender athletes, experts from scientific, legal, and human rights backgrounds, as well as representatives from sporting institutions. Following extensive discussions during the seminar, a meeting was held on July 5th, leading to the adoption of the new rules.

According to the press release, the UCI Management Committee determined that “the current state of scientific knowledge” suggests that even with at least two years of gender-affirming hormone therapy, maintaining a target plasma testosterone concentration of 2.5 nmol/L, female transgender athletes may still retain advantages acquired during male puberty.

While the updated rules will come into effect next week, the UCI expressed its intention to collaborate with other international sports organizations and co-fund a new research program focused on studying the physical performance changes in highly-trained athletes undergoing hormone treatment as part of their transition.

It is important to note that the UCI acknowledged the possibility of future rule adjustments as scientific knowledge evolves. However, I’m not holding my breath. The “scientific” research on which the UCI’s decision is built does not provide sufficient evidence to support the organizations conclusions.

The data used is limited to grip strength and push-up tests conducted after one year of testosterone reduction therapy, there is ZERO evidence to support definitive conclusions in regards to cycling. The rule change is premature and lacks comprehensive scientific backing.

Read the full press release below:

From the UCI:

At an extraordinary meeting held on 5 July, the Management Committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale (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 meeting of the UCI Management Committee was held following a seminar on the conditions for the participation of transgender athletes in women’s cycling events, organised by the UCI on 21 June, at which the various stakeholders – transgender and cisgender athletes, experts from the scientific, legal and human rights fields, and sporting institutions – were able to present their respective positions.

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. 

For international Masters events – races on the UCI Cycling for All International Calendar and UCI events (UCI Gran Fondo World Series, UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, UCI Gravel World Series, UCI Gravel World Championships and UCI Masters World Championships) –, the Men’s category will be renamed Men/Open, and any athlete who does not meet the conditions for participation in women’s events will be admitted without restriction.

The UCI Management Committee has taken note of the state of scientific knowledge, which does not confirm that at least two years of gender-affirming hormone therapy with a target plasma testosterone concentration of 2.5 nmol/L is sufficient to completely eliminate the benefits of testosterone during puberty in men. In addition, there is considerable inter-individual variability in response to gender-confirming hormone therapy, which makes it even more difficult to draw precise conclusions about the effects of such treatment. 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.

Taking these findings into account, the UCI Management Committee considered the interests of transgender athletes in being able to take part in sporting competitions against those of athletes in the female category, which is considered a protected class. In this context, the UCI Management Committee concluded, considering the remaining scientific uncertainties, that it was necessary to take this measure to protect the female class and ensure equal opportunities.

For more information on the current state of scientific knowledge on the effects of gender-affirming treatment on performance markers in transgender female cyclists: Prof. Xavier Bigard, “The current knowledge on the effects of gender-affirming treatment on markers of performance in transgender female cyclists”, updated May 2023.

The new rules will come into force on 17 July 2023. They may change in the future as scientific knowledge evolves. With this in mind, the UCI will begin discussions with other members of the international sporting movement on the co-financing of a research programme aimed at studying changes in the physical performance of highly-trained athletes undergoing transitional hormone treatment.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “First of all, the UCI would like to reaffirm that cycling – as a competitive sport, leisure activity or means of transport – is open to everyone, including transgender people, whom we encourage like everyone else to take part in our sport. I would also like to reaffirm that the 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. However, it has a duty to guarantee, above all, equal opportunities for all competitors in cycling competitions. It is this imperative that led the UCI to conclude that, 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, as a precautionary measure, to authorise the former to race in the female categories.”