USA Cycling, UCI address questions on transgender women and fair competition

Rachel McKinnon on the Masters Worlds podium with her rainbow jersey

Rachel McKinnon on the Masters Worlds podium with her rainbow jersey (Image credit: @rachelvmckinnon on Twitter)

USA Cycling released a statement Wednesday regarding its policies on transgender women racing in women's category cycling at the non-elite and elite levels. Its statement was spurred in response to recent questions asked after Canadian cyclist Rachel McKinnon became the first transgender woman to win a world title at the UCI Masters Track World Championships in Los Angeles in October.

"USA Cycling is committed to creating an environment where our members have equal opportunity to participate in bicycle racing without discrimination," read USA Cycling’s statement.

"We understand the challenge of new, major additions to USA Cycling policy, and the ongoing need for conversation on diversity issues, specifically regarding the participation of transgender athletes.

"The rules and regulations developed by the IOC and UCI regarding transgender participation, which we follow at the elite level, seek to strike a balance between inclusion and fairness of competition for all athletes. USA Cycling’s transgender policy for non-elite amateur events is designed to do the same, but with less onerous requirements on transgender athletes and policies designed to promote inclusion while addressing capability, competition level, and required upgrades."

McKinnon was born biological male and identifies as being a transgender woman. She is an assistant professor and PhD in philosophy at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and teaches philosophy and ethics with a focus on gender studies. McKinnon is a former badminton player who started racing bikes on the road and track when she moved to South Carolina, and she is a licenced member of USA Cycling.

At the UCI Masters Track World Championships, McKinnon won the women’s 34-44 sprint gold-medal round against Carolien Van Herrikhuyzen (Netherlands) to win the world title. As a transgender woman, McKinnon followed the highest-set policies issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that allow her to compete in the women's category.

The ICO currently rules that transgender women competing in women's events must declare their gender identity, which cannot be changed for sporting purposes for four years. They must demonstrate a total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to the first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women's competition). And their testosterone levels must remain below 10nmol/L for the duration of competition eligibility.

The UCI and USA Cycling follow the same policy, while USA Cycling has a separate set of guidelines for non-elite and elite level racing. Elite-level racers must comply with IOC's transgender guidelines, however, those guidelines make up one of five criteria in place for non-elite racers.

USA Cycling's non-elite criteria that may be used to determine a member’s eligibility in a chosen gender include evidence of one or more of the following: 1) Does the member’s gender in their “everyday life” match his or her racing gender; 2) Has the member obtained civil documents with his or her racing gender identified (i.e. state I.D., driver’s license, birth certificate); 3) Attestation of gender identity from a medical professional; 4) Attestation of gender identity from a certified counselor, public official, school administrator, or other academic advisor; and or 5) Compliance with IOC guidelines.

USA Cycling confirmed to Cyclingnews that McKinnon is registered as a female athlete with a category 1 license (elite level), and so she is obliged to follow the IOC guidelines.

USA Cycling confirmed that McKinnon has followed the rules that govern transgender women competing in women’s races that are sanctioned through USA Cycling, as well as the events sanctioned under the UCI such as at the UCI Masters Track World Championships.

"Rachel McKinnon is a transgender woman and USA Cycling member," read the statement from USA Cycling. "She has participated in multiple USA Cycling events while adhering to requirements for transgender athletes as set forth by IOC, UCI, and USA Cycling.

"More specifically, while competing at the Master's World Championships, an event run under the UCI's purview, McKinnon adhered to all rules and regulations developed by the IOC and the UCI regarding transgender athlete participation in international competition."

In a recently published opinion piece in the Washington Post, McKinnon said that her testosterone results are below the bottom of the average female range, and that her endogenous testosterone [naturally occurring in the body - ed.] is undetectable.

"There are rules and regulations that I must meet to compete in women’s events, such as demonstrating that my endogenous, or naturally produced, testosterone is below a certain level. Mine is so low it's undetectable," McKinnon wrote.

In some cases, biological males who identify as transgender women must undergo therapy to suppress naturally occurring testosterone in their bodies (testosterone blocking) to meet the sport governing guidelines on competing in women's sports events, and they must be tested and provide a doctor's note.

In an interview with USA Today (opens in new tab) in January, McKinnon said that based on new research, she felt that the 10nmol/L limit was an arbitrary number, and that men and women have varying levels of natural testosterone; some women have higher levels and some men have lower levels. She also believes hormone suppression is against human rights and that testosterone testing is insensitive.

The UCI released a statement following McKinnon's world title victory that stated the IOC was currently reviewing its policy on transgender women competing in sport, and that new guidelines would be published soon.

"After some 18 months of substantial work, and after consultation with the IFs, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should shortly announce guidelines covering the participation of M-W transgender athletes," read the UCI statement on October 19.

"This document should enable us to take into consideration, in line with the evolution of our society, the desire of these people to compete while at the same time guarantee as far as possible an equal chance for all participants in women’s competitions."

In addition, USA Cycling insists that it wants its members to have equal access to cycling events in a manner that is fair to all competitors, preserves the integrity of the sport, and respects international competition regulations.

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.