Cycling’s ‘Lia Thomas Moment’: Male Athlete Wins Prestigious Race in Women’s Category, Triggering Backlash among Female AthletesTNBD Community 1 month ago 0
Posted for: Layla Godey
Male transgender-identifying cyclist Austin Killips won the women’s division of the prestigious Tour of the Gila race in New Mexico by nearly a minute-and-a-half on Sunday.
“After a week of nonsense on the internet I’m especially thankful to everyone in the peloton and sport who continue to affirm that Twitter is not real life. I love my peers and competitors and am grateful for every opportunity I get to learn and grow as a person and athlete on course together,” the cyclist wrote in a message on Instagram after the race.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the regulatory body overseeing the sport, applauded Killips as “an exclamation point on her overall race leader,” in a Sunday tweet.
Austin Killips @AmyD_Foundation put an exclamation point on her overall race lead Sunday by winning Stage 5 Gila Monster and taking home the overall victory at Tour of the Gila. #UCIWomen #TOTG2023https://t.co/exLh7kIIJI
— Tour of the Gila (@TouroftheGila) May 1, 2023
However, Killips’s victory has brought into question UCI’s policy of permitting male athletes to compete against females. In March 2022, the body passed new rules requiring that males suppress their testosterone below a prescribed level before being allowed to enter the women’s category.
The testosterone-suppression policy barred Emily Bridges, a male transgender-identifying cyclist, from competing against women but UCI stopped short of joining World Athletics in preserving sex-based categories.
“Austin is cycling’s equivalent of Lia Thomas,” Inga Thompson, an American Olympian and national road race champion, told The Telegraph on Monday, referring to the transgender swimmer who won an NCAA Division 1 national championship.
“We have more than 50 transgender women in the sport. And what’s going on in the background is that women are just quietly walking away. They think, ‘Why bother, if it’s not fair?’” Thompson added.
Alison Sydor, a former elite cross-country cyclist, condemned UCI’s existing policy, equating it to permitting performance-enhancing drugs.
“Going from the Male -> Female category (gender doping) in cycling sport I’d argue is no different functionally than doping,” the Canadian Olympic silver medalist tweeted on Monday reacting to the news.
“The current UCI rules that allow males to compete in female cycling events are not fair to female athletes. Time for UCI to admit this current rule situation is unsustainable and leaving a black mark on cycling as a fair sport for females,” Sydor added.
In March, UCI found itself in the crosshairs of a Supreme Court amicus brief filed by Hannah Arensman, a 35-time winner of national cyclocross circuit competitions. The cyclist lent her support to West Virginia’s newly proposed law, Save Women’s Sports, which prohibits student-athletes from competing in categories outside their biological sex.
Arensman announced her retirement from the cycling circuit after finishing a race behind Killips.
“Over the past few years, I have had to race directly with male cyclists in women’s events. As this has become more of a reality, it has become increasingly discouraging to train as hard as I do only to have to lose to a man with the unfair advantage of an androgenized body that intrinsically gives him an obvious advantage over me, no matter how hard I train,” Arensman wrote in her submission.
“I have decided to end my cycling career,” the cyclist added. “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.
Killips won $53,000 in prize money.