UCI bans trans women from entering women’s categories

According to the UCI the ban is “to protect the female class and ensure equal opportunities."

Strade Bianche 2022, Gruber Images

Escape Collective
by Escape Collective 14.07.2023 Photography by
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The UCI on Friday announced that it will ban transgender women from competing in the women’s category of international competitions starting Monday, July 17. This ban includes the upcoming “super” World Championships in Glasgow in August.

According to the governing body, the move is “to protect the female class and ensure equal opportunities.” The UCI also stated that the rules may change in future, as scientific knowledge evolves.

The ban specifically targets transgender women who transitioned after puberty, and applies to all categories across most disciplines, including road, track, and mountain bike. International Masters Gran Fondos and Gravel events will now have a men/open category for those who do not fall into the women’s category, however, a solution for transgender women dreaming of riding other international events has not been established.

The move reverses existing UCI rules that allowed transgender women to participate in international competitions after a period of hormone therapy and monitoring to ensure their serum testosterone levels were below 2.5 nmol/L for at least 24 months.

In its announcement, the UCI included an assessment of the current science about whether transgender women who undergo puberty retain some athletic advantage over cisgender women. The document, authored by UCI medical director Xavier Bigard, acknowledges that almost all existing research is on non-athlete transwomen, and notes that there is mixed evidence on the extent to which post-puberty advantages like muscle mass, power output, and aerobic capacity remain after gender-affirming hormone therapy. “Only very few data exist on the changes in sport performance in TransWomen with GAHT, but none in cycling,” the document states, concluding that it is “impossible to confirm” whether advantages remain after prolonged administration of hormone therapy.

This move by the UCI comes years after multiple transgender women have competed in elite and professional women’s cycling without attracting public attention. Natalie van Gogh, for example, rode professionally for teams like Parkhotel Valkenburg and Chevaleire Cycling Team for a decade before she retired in 2021.

Nevertheless, the UCI is moving to change its eligibility rules. The UCI’s statement reads, “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.”

UCI president David Lappartient said before the start of Friday’s Tour de France stage 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.”

Given the July 17 in-force date, the rules are effective essentially immediately, and will likely remain in place at least through the Paris Olympics in 2024.