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Open Letter To The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)

May 4, 2023 Re: Fairness in Women’s Cycling To: UCI Management Committee,

The International Consortium on Female Sport (ICFS) includes representation from across the world. We are elite athletes and coaches, academics and scientists, and legal and human rights experts. We call on the UCI Management Committee to address the unfairness and injustice for female riders that the world is now witnessing in cycling sports.

The UCI Management Committee members are the custodians of cycling globally. You are responsible for ensuring non-discrimination and equal opportunities for female high-performance riders on the basis of sex. We ask you to lead the way in cycling and step up now to ensure equality for female riders worldwide.

The awarding of top place and prize money to a male rider competing in the female category in the Tour de Gila this past weekend is unacceptable and destroys the integrity of the female category. This was inevitable and predictable given:

  1. the increasing numbers of males who now identify as women who are competing in female categories, particularly in North America,

  2. the significant male performance advantage of 10-24% in cycling sports which is minimally mitigated by testosterone suppression[1], and

  3. UCI eligibility regulations which permit male advantage in female categories by adopting a scientific ‘fix’ (testosterone suppression) that leaves significant male performance advantage intact[2].

The United Nations human rights conventions outline explicit, established, and mandated recognition of the equal human rights of females, on the basis of sex. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) is ratified by 189 countries and enshrines the human rights and freedoms of women.

Article 13c requires States to ‘to eliminate discrimination against women … to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular … [t]he right to participate in…sports and all aspects of cultural life.’ The Convention is clear that,

‘The term "discrimination against women" shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex.’

The UCI policy permitting eligibility into female categories for male riders who identify as transgender via testosterone suppression to below 2.5 nmol/L does not work. All the scientific evidence shows testosterone suppression, however low, leaves significant male advantage intact [2]. The ICFS and female athletes worldwide do not consent to international federations, including the UCI, overwriting fair competition for female riders with so-called ‘meaningful competition.’

Elite women are dropping out of cycling. The male rider who won the female Tour de Gila was seen earlier this year physically pushing female elite racer Hannah Arensman at the 2022 USA Cyclocross National Championships [3]. She later made an emotional announcement of her retirement from competitive cycling. She explained in an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court [4] in support of West Virginia's Save Women's Sports law,

‘I have decided to end my cycling career. At my last race at the recent UCI Cyclocross National Championships in the elite women’s category in December 2022, I came in 4th place, flanked on either side by male riders awarded 3rd and 5th places. My sister and family sobbed as they watched a man finish in front of me, having witnessed several physical interactions with him throughout the race.’

Further that,

‘Additionally, it is difficult for me to think about the very real possibility I was overlooked for an international selection on the US team at Cyclocross Worlds in February 2023 because of a male competitor.’

‘Moving forward, I feel for young girls learning to compete and who are growing up in a day when they no longer have a fair chance at being the new record 20 holders and champions in cycling because men want to compete in our division. I have felt deeply angered, disappointed, overlooked, and humiliated that the rule makers of women’s sports do not feel it is necessary to protect women’s sports to ensure fair competition for women anymore.’

Hannah’s experiences will be repeated time and again unless you take action.

In summary, it is the position of the ICFS that international sport policy should be based on:

  1. the science, which shows testosterone suppression does not remove male performance advantage,

  2. the established human rights of female athletes on the basis of sex (as compared with all males, regardless of gender identity), and separately and distinctly transgender athletes on the basis of gender identity (as compared with athletes of their own sex with a range of different or no gender identities),

  3. direct and meaningful consultation with female stakeholders in sport

The current UCI regulations for transgender athletes fail on all three counts.

The inclusion of male cyclists in the female category is unacceptable and must end. On behalf of women from around the world we urge you to take this moment to review this policy and save women’s cycling for future generations of female riders.

ICFS experts are happy to meet with you in good faith to help formulate a way forward.

Yours in Sport,

Founding Members, ICFS


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