'This is wrong and must be called out': Sharron Davies leads backlash in transgender cycling row

Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges - INSTAGRAM: EMILY BRIDGES
Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges - INSTAGRAM: EMILY BRIDGES

British sport was engulfed by its first major transgender row on Tuesday night over plans to let a recently-transitioned cyclist race for gold against the country’s greatest female Olympian.

Emily Bridges, who on Tuesday was on the verge of being cleared to compete in women’s events, has applied to enter Saturday’s National Omnium Championship alongside Laura Kenny.

Bridges, 21, from Wales, was said to be awaiting formal approval from the sport’s world governing body to race five-time Olympic champion Kenny, and other stars of this summer’s Tokyo Games, at the Derby Arena.

News of her appearance on a provisional entry list for the event reignited the debate over whether male-to-female trans athletes should be allowed to compete in women’s sport.

That was after a major row broke out just over a week ago when Lia Thomas became the first openly trans swimmer to claim victory at the United States’ top college championship.

Like Thomas, Bridges has undergone the required year of hormone-suppression therapy to allow her to compete in women’s sport.

As recently as last month, she was part of the University of Nottingham men’s team that took bronze in the team pursuit at the British Universities’ Championships in Glasgow.

The University of Nottingham Sport Twitter account has since deleted a post celebrating the result.

Sharron Davies, Britain’s 1980 Olympic swimming silver medallist and leading campaigner against trans involvement in women’s sport, told Telegraph Sport: “Of course, sport must be for all, and Emily has raced in the men’s team for years.

“She competed with the men’s team very successfully this past year whilst reducing testosterone, so it shows an open and fully inclusive category can work very well without ruining the rights of female athletes to their own category of fair sport.

“This is wrong and people must start calling it out or lose sport for future generations of young girls.”

Davies was backed by Mara Yamauchi, who finished sixth in the 2008 Olympic marathon.

“We have categories in sport in order to ensure fair competition and those categories are by sex, by age, by type of disability and by weight,” she said.

“If we didn’t have those categories then the only people who would achieve anything in sport would be the heaviest adult males.”

Davies and Yamauchi both warned the row could end up in court, with the latter arguing taxpayers’ money should not be given to national governing bodies that allowed trans participation in women’s sport.

Yamauchi also called for the public to boycott the commercial partners of Bridges’ governing body, British Cycling, and even the athlete’s own personal sponsors.

Bridges – who set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles and was selected in 2019 onto British Cycling’s senior academy – recently told Cycling Weekly that she had always hoped to be able to compete against women.

“It was always the plan,” she said. “After starting hormone therapy, I didn’t want to race in the male category any more than I had to. It sucks, racing as a man when you’re not one. It was quickly apparent that that was the wrong category for me.”

Last year Bridges’ mother, Sandy, hit out at the “hysteria” surrounding her daughter, insisting that she just wanted to be treated fairly. “Emily is not in contravention of any of these rules [around trans participation in sport] so please stop with the bulls**t,” she said.

Welsh Cycling, which is in close contact with Bridges, said on Tuesday she did not wish to comment on her plans to enter this weekend’s national championships.

A spokesman for Kenny did not respond to requests for comment.