New 'classification' relies on integrity of trans-athletes

New 'classification' relies on integrity of trans-athletes

New 'classification' relies on integrity of trans-athletes

A cycling organization in the U.S. – acknowledging that men have a biological advantage over women – has created a third category for trans-athletes. But those athletes will be allowed to "self-select" in determining the category in which they compete.

The controversy surrounding biological males competing as women in female sports events has been at the center of cultural conversations. Many female athletes – perhaps most prominently, Riley Gaines – have voiced their concerns about the physical advantage these trans-athletes have in head-to-head competition.

In May, American cyclist Austin Killips (pictured above) won a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) stage event in New Mexico. Last month, he competed in the "Belgian Waffle Ride: North Carolina," which is part of The Monuments cycling competition – winning that event by more than five minutes.

His victories have caused uproar because he competed in the female bracket, claiming to identify as a woman.

After receiving complaints from competitors about Killips' physical biological advantage, the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) decided to revise its eligibility requirements. Starting August 1, a third open category will provide a space for trans athletes to compete. In its policy announcement, BWR stated:

"In the interest of protecting the parity of sports between women and men, racers who were born female may compete in this [new] classification."

The three categories are defined now as follows:

Female Category – for racers born female
Male Category – for racers born male and/or who identify as male
Open Category – all racers, regardless of gender identity

In the portion discussing eligibility verification, BWR states "[we] will not require proof of eligibility for racers competing in specific classifications before an event, preferring a self-selection honor policy that relies on the integrity of our participants to follow the registration criteria."

While validation of eligibility may be handled on a "case-by-case basis," confirmation of competitors' eligibility can be requested "via an anonymous process," according to the official rules.

A step in the right direction?

Paula Scanlan, a former swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania and former teammate to the transgender swimmer Will "Lia" Thomas, shared on X (formerly known as Twitter):

"I like that this solution protects females but having a third category with the same prize money seems expensive and is not feasible for all races and competitions. In addition, the third category will be dominated by male athletes and males will have two categories to win in. Personally, I am in favor of either male and female categories or female and open (male and female individuals may enter) …"

This change in eligibility requirements is not exclusive to the American sports scene. Earlier this year, a British cycling organization made the decision to ban biological males from female categories, although they were previously allowed to compete. UCI released a statement July 14, stating that science doesn't confirm a complete elimination in testosterone levels:

"The UCI Management Committee has taken note of the state of scientific knowledge, which does not confirm that at least two years of gender-affirming hormone therapy with a target plasma testosterone concentration of 2.5 nmol/L is sufficient to completely eliminate the benefits of testosterone during puberty in men.

"In addition, there is considerable inter-individual variability in response to gender-confirming hormone therapy, which makes it even more difficult to draw precise conclusions about the effects of such treatment.

"Given the current state of scientific knowledge, it is also impossible to rule out the possibility that biomechanical factors such as the shape and arrangement of the bones in their limbs may constitute a lasting advantage for female transgender athletes."