Austin Killips, a transgender woman, recently won the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, USA, an elite women’s cycling race sanctioned by the UCI, the sport’s world governing body. However, her victory has sparked criticism and reignited the debate over transgender participation in women’s sports.
Killips, a male-born rider, finished 89 seconds ahead of Italian Marcela Prieto in the general classification and won the Queen of the Mountains jersey. She was able to compete in the female field under the UCI’s current policy, which permits trans women to participate as long as their testosterone levels have been below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for at least 24 months.
The UCI tightened its eligibility rules last year, halving the testosterone limit and doubling the transition period, following a controversy in Britain over the possible participation of Welsh trans woman Emily Bridges in a race with five-time Olympic gold medalist Laura Kenny.
However, cycling’s participation policy remains more lenient than that of athletics and swimming, which prohibits all trans women from competing in the female category at an elite level. This disparity has sparked a heated debate among athletes, coaches, and sports officials, with some arguing that it creates an unfair playing field for female athletes.
Former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies criticized the UCI’s policy, saying that “those in charge should hang their heads in shame” and that “the UCI is not fit for purpose.” Meanwhile, ex-Canadian world champion cyclist Alison Sydor called for the UCI to admit that the current rule situation is “unsustainable” and “leaving a black mark on cycling as a fair sport for females.”
Hannah Arensman, a 35-time winner on the cyclocross circuit, finished fourth in a race in which Killips was accused of pushing another competitor off course. Arensman subsequently retired from the sport, citing the emergence of transgender riders and the discouragement of training hard only to lose to a man with an androgenized body that intrinsically gives him an unfair advantage.
Killips, who rides for the Amy D Foundation, a team dedicated to promoting participation, opportunity, and equity for women in cycling, responded to the criticism on Instagram, thanking “everyone in the peloton and sport who continue to affirm that Twitter is not real life” and expressing her love for her peers and competitors.
While Killips’ victory highlights the progress made in transgender inclusion in sports, it also underscores the ongoing challenges of creating a level playing field for all athletes. As the debate continues, it is important to find a balance between fairness and inclusivity in sports, so that everyone can compete and excel regardless of their gender identity.
Since 2014, Benny A. King has been fully immersed in the world of combat sports. Starting with a blog about Greco Roman wrestling, Benny’s passion for combat sports has led him to explore various disciplines.