On 14 July, 2023, the governing body of world cycling, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) banned transgender women from participating in female cycling competitions. The UCI considered this step was necessary to protect the female class and ensure equal opportunities. In a press release the President of the UCI stated that the UCI had “a duty to guarantee, above all, equal opportunities for all competitors in cycling competitions.”
Interestingly, only a few days earlier the European Court of Human Rights had ruled in favour of Caster Semenya, a differences of sexual development (DSD) athlete who had been prohibited from participating in international competition by World Athletics. The Court found that, in preventing Semenya from participating in international competition unless she underwent hormone therapy there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in relation to Article 14 taken together with Article 8 of the Convention.
This decision shows that the UCI's decision transcends sport and potentially could be challenged in Human Rights Courts around the world.
After the announcement made by the UCI, the internet and social media erupted. Scrolling through comments and reactions there appeared to be an overwhelming support for the UCIs decision to protect the integrity and fairness of women’s sport.
Something didn’t sit right with me. Where have all these champions of women’s sport been as we fought for equal recognition in the past?
In 2012 I received a suspended fine after calling the then head of the UCI “a bit of a dick” for saying that women’s cycling wasn’t developed enough to warrant a minimum wage. Interestingly, one of the men who took to social media to chastise me for speaking up is now a vocal advocate for protecting women’s competition – Joe Papp.
Another person who reached out to me and politely explained why I shouldn’t ask for a minimum salary is now head of a cycling athlete Union – who openly supported the UCI’s decision to ban transgender athletes from UCI sanction cycling events.
It's interesting that the UCI state that their primary objective is to ensure there are equal opportunities in cycling competitions, yet the women’s minimum world tour salary is still €13,026 less than the men’s. We still don’t have the same race or exposure opportunities and prize money distribution is still unequal.
I urge you to consider, before you engage in harmful and hurtful public debate that doesn’t impact you, where were you when we needed you in the past?
If you are genuinely committed to championing, fostering and protecting women’s sport don’t let this be the only issue you engage with. Join us in our fight for equal pay and equal opportunity. Support us in our fight for safe workplaces for all women where we feel safe to report workplace misconduct and where we are believed when we do have the courage to speak out. Stop labelling women ‘bitches’ or ‘bossy’ when they dare to think differently and challenge what has always been done.
I contacted the UCI to ask the composition of the management committee which collectively made the decision to ban transgender athletes from cycling competition. They haven’t responded to my enquiry, though they may in time. It’s important to know how many men, women, transgender athletes, intersex athletes, lawyers and scientific experts were consulted before the decision was made. I do know, after The Cyclist’s Alliance put out a public statement, that one of the two athlete recognised female cycling Unions was not consulted.
Help to elevate and empower women. Stop making decisions for us and make them with us.