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Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies has compared the advantages of being a trans woman in female sport to the advantages gained by drug cheats.
The British silver medalist contrasted how sports governing bodies were ‘spending millions’ trying to spot athletes who are doping while simultaneously allowing biological males to compete in female competitions.
Her comments come as trans athlete Emily Bridges, 21, prepares to compete against five-time Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny in the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday.
But there has been backlash against the inclusion of Miss Bridges, who was on the Great Britain Academy programme as a male rider and raced in men’s events as recently as last month.
Miss Bridges, who began hormone therapy last year and is now eligible to compete as a woman under British Cycling’s policy, is also still currently listed as ‘male’ on her British Cycling profile.
Among those spearheading the criticism of her inclusion in Saturday’s event has been former Olympian Ms Davies – who won silver in the 400-metre medley at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Ms Davies, who has called for the protection of female-only sports and the creation of an ‘open’ category to include trans athletes, says she ‘absolutely support anybody who chooses to identify as the opposite sex’.
But she says she believes Miss Bridges and other former male athletes competing against women hold an ‘unfair advantage’.
Ms Davies told GB News: ‘We can have inclusion and fairness, we just have to put fairness first.
‘If you look across Olympic sports, and that includes cycling, you are looking at a 10 to 20, even 30 per cent in weight-lifting difference, which is absolutely vast and anyone who has gone through male puberty will not be able to mitigate against all those advantages.
‘At the moment we spend millions trying to spot people having the tiniest advantage by taking drugs so that they’re cheating, but yet women are supposed to move over so that males are able to come into their sports and just give up their trophies, their wins, their places their scholarships. It just seems so incredibly unfair.’
Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies has compared the advantages of being a trans woman in female sport to the advantages gained by drug cheats
Miss Bridges, pictured here in August 2018, had set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in the same year
Miss Bridges, who began hormone therapy last year and is now eligible to compete as a woman under British Cycling’s policy, is also still currently listed as ‘male’ on her British Cycling profile
The decision to allow Miss Bridges to ride in women’s events has been heavily criticised.
Despite racing in male events as recently as last month, the former national junior champion cyclist has been cleared to race by governing body in Saturday’s female Ominumn.
This is because Miss Bridges has been undergoing hormone treatment for a year and has now lowered her testosterone to the required level set by British Cycling.
Meanwhile, British Cycling continues to list Miss Bridges as ‘male’ under the gender section on her profile, despite her being set to compete in Saturday’s female event.
However her participation in the event is not yet guaranteed. The UCI, cycling’s world governing body, will make a decision on Miss Bridges’s eligibility on Friday.
If she meets UCI guidelines on trans participation, having had testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months, she will be allowed to compete.
If given the all-clear, Miss Bridges could go on to compete for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.
She may also be selected for Team GB at the Olympics in Paris in 2024, where she could be in the same team pursuit line-up as Dame Laura.
Ms Davies, who has called for more current and former athletes to speak-up in the row, says she has been contacted by a number of women cyclists who are afraid of the consequences of speaking out against the inclusion of former male sports stars.
‘British Cycling ought to be ashamed of themselves,’ she said. ‘I have had quite a few of the girls very distressed on the phone. They are frustrated and disappointed.
‘They are all for inclusion but not at the loss of fairness and opportunities for biological females.
‘I can’t see how this isn’t sexual discrimination in the tallest order. Reducing testosterone does not mitigate male puberty advantage.
‘Emily retains an unfair advantage. She competed with the men’s team very successfully last year whilst reducing testosterone.
‘This is wrong and people must start calling it out or lose sport for future generations of young girls.’
A well-placed source added: ‘Everyone is afraid to say anything for fear of retribution.’
Emily Bridges, 21, will compete against five-time Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny (pictured right with husband Jason) in the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday
Ms Davies, who has called for more current and former athletes to speak-up in the row (pictured: Her recent Tweet), says she has been contacted by a number of women cyclists who are afraid of the consequences of speaking out against the inclusion of former male sports stars
In 2018, Miss Bridges set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles.
Her time of 47min 27sec was more than two minutes faster than Hayley Simmonds’ female senior record.
She was dropped from the GB Academy shortly before she came out as a transgender woman in 2020.
Announcing herself as trans in a piece for Sky Sports on Coming Out Day, she declared she would take part in research to track her transition.
She wrote in October 2020: ‘I’m going to be part of research into the effect that a medical transition has on athletic performance.
‘This will, as far as I’m aware, be the first time that an elite-level international athlete has done this. I understand this will be extremely useful research.
‘I really want to demonstrate what effect hormone replacement therapy has on the body, and how it massively changes athletic performance in multiple ways.
During this time, Miss Bridges continued to compete as a male, winning the points race at last month’s British Universities’ Championships, as well as bronze in the men’s team pursuit.
Following the start of her hormone treatment, Miss Bridges said she had struggled, telling Cycling Weekly: ‘I’m now trying to power a bigger frame [relative to others] but with a much reduced engine.’
But she announced her desire to return to the ‘top level’ of the sport. ‘I definitely want to return to the top level because being able to compete is really important to me – I just love it,’ she told Cycling Weekly in May last year.
‘In the meantime, I’m just trying to fall back in love with the sport.’
While not a member of Britain’s women’s track endurance squad, she could be added in time for the next Olympics if her performances merit selection, and she would be eligible under the current rules.
British Cycling updated its transgender policy in January ‘based on objective scientific research, driven by a desire to guarantee fairness and safety within the sport’.
It said that ‘testosterone levels remain the primary method of determining which members are eligible to compete in the male and female categories’.
She continued to compete as a male after coming out as a transgender woman, winning the points race at last month’s British Universities’ Championships, as well as bronze in the men’s team pursuit
But Ross Tucker, of the Real Science of Sport podcast, said: ‘There is no good evidence that suppressing testosterone removes male advantage because the biology that is created by testosterone in males is not undone – performance advantages are likely to persist too.’
Fiona McAnena, of group Fair Play For Women, added: ‘British Cycling say they want to promote greater female participation, so why would anyone think it’s a good idea to add males to female events?’
Miss Bridges could have police protection at Derby on Saturday, according to her mother Sandy, who wrote on Twitter: ‘This is the reality of being trans today.
‘That my daughter has to be on a police operation plan to compete in a bike race in the UK.’
Tokyo 2020 medalist Neah Evans will also take part in the event.
In a statement, British Cycling said: ‘We believe that the updated policy reflects the current evidence available to us, however we acknowledge that more research into this area is required.’
Source: Daily Mail