Cycling has become the latest sport to accept biological reality. Following a nine-month review, British Cycling has decided to ban transwomen from participating at the competitive level in the female category. They will still be able to compete, but in a new “open” category alongside men.
Predictably, the decision has brought the fury of gender activists down on the sports body’s head. But it is not a “violent act” against trans people. It is about basic fairness. “Research studies indicate,” said British Cycling, “that even with the suppression of testosterone, transgender women who transition post-puberty retain a performance advantage.”
Earlier this month, Austin Killips, who is transgender, won first prize in the women’s race at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. Such victories have proven demoralising to female athletes, with some suggesting that women have left the sport after concluding that they no longer had a fair chance of winning.
British Cycling will not, however, extend its ban to non-competitive activity. Here it intends to “build on its long-term commitment to inclusion” instead. This is a curious decision. If it is unfair for biological men to compete against women at the elite level, why not in amateur races as well? All of British cycling’s great heroes have had to begin somewhere. Dame Laura Kenny, who captured gold medals and the nation’s hearts at the 2012 Olympics aged just 20, started out at her local club, the Welwyn Wheelers.
The advance of women’s sport in the past 30 years has been remarkable. Standards have risen and, with them, female participation and viewer interest. This will only continue, however, if women feel inspired to compete.