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Poorly communicated guidelines, ever-changing restrictions and ‘almost laughable’ transphobia. How a transgender cyclist lost her title.

Poorly communicated guidelines, ever-changing restrictions and ‘almost laughable’ transphobia. How a transgender cyclist lost her title.

Story at a glance

  • USA Cycling has revoked a silver medal from a transgender cyclist and removed her from competing in further events at the 2022 Elite Track National Championships, citing unmet participation requirements.

  • Leia Genis, 25, wrote in an Instagram post following her disqualification that she was “heartbroken” and “disgusted” and suggested that the new requirements, which went into effect July 1, had not been properly communicated to her.

  • USA Cycling told Changing America that it “supports transgender athletes’ participation in sport.”

Six weeks after she was deemed eligible to compete, Leia Genis, an Atlanta-based artist and cyclist, was informed by a USA Cycling official that she could no longer participate in the governing body’s Elite Track National Championships because she did not meet a new set of eligibility requirements for elite transgender athletes.

She would also have to surrender the second-place medal she had won the week prior in the championship’s individual pursuit race, the official said.

According to USA Cycling, which follows guidelines set by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), competitive cycling’s worldwide governing body, Genis, 25, was deemed unfit to compete in further championship races because she had not submitted documentation that is now required under UCI regulations.

In the first major revision to its guidelines since 2020, UCI officials in June released a stringent new set of eligibility requirements for transgender female athletes, increasing the “transition period” on low testosterone from one year to two years and slashing its testosterone threshold in half to 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood.

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The new rules went into effect July 1, just under three weeks before Genis won silver. In June, UCI officials said the guidelines are subject to change in the future “as scientific knowledge evolves.”

In a statement to Changing America, USA Cycling said Genis, who had previously been racing in non-elite events, did not provide the UCI with the necessary documents to compete in the elite women’s category.

“When USA Cycling discovered that Ms. Genis was participating in the event, a representative from the organization met with Ms. Genis to review her eligibility in accordance with the UCI’s policy,” the governing body said. “This review revealed that Ms. Genis was ineligible to participate in the championships as she had not completed the required steps to meet the UCI’s Athlete Eligibility Regulations.”

USA Cycling said Genis had been made aware of UCI’s transgender athlete policy in March, several months before the new guidelines were announced and implemented. USA Cycling did not specify which requirements Genis was instructed to comply with.

Genis’ event results were then vacated and she was removed from further championship events, according to USA Cycling, which added that it “supports transgender athletes’ participation in sport,” noting that the national governing body was one of the first to adopt an inclusive transgender athlete policy.

Genis, however, disagreed.

“Being a trans woman in this sport is so incredibly frustrating,” Genis wrote in a July 30 Instagram post announcing her disqualification. “Poorly communicated guidelines, restrictions and requirements that are constantly changing, lack of empathy from USA Cycling, and a peloton full of furtive whispers and sideways glances mean that even showing up to compete is an immense struggle.”

Genis blamed her sudden ineligibility on the fact that she was performing well in races against cisgender women. According to Genis, roughly two months earlier, she had been cleared for UCI races held at the same velodrome and overseen by the same technical director.

“The transphobia is so blatant it’s almost laughable,” she wrote on Instagram.

Genis said USA Cycling’s decision to revoke her medal and disqualify her from further elite competition has left her feeling both “heartbroken” and “disgusted.”

“I have worked my ass off to be here and I rightfully earned my silver medal,” she wrote. Genis added that she intends to continue training and competing in elite cycling events.

“Trans women are women,” she wrote on Instagram. “Sport is a human right. I deserve the right to race.”

UCI and USA Cycling are just two of several governing bodies that have recently moved to adopt more rigid requirements for transgender female athletes.

In June, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), the world governing body of elite swimming, announced that a majority of its members had voted in favor of a policy that effectively bars transgender women from competing in elite international swimming events.

The new policy, FINA said, would control for a “performance gap” that emerges during puberty between athletes assigned male and female at birth.

Last week, World Triathlon adopted a policy similar to UCI’s newly implemented rules, requiring transgender female athletes to have maintained testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least two years before being considered eligible to compete in the women’s category.

Transgender female athletes that have previously competed against men must wait four years before competing against women, the governing body said.

In November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abandoned its own testosterone suppression requirement, writing in a set of updated guidelines that it should not be assumed that transgender women have an automatic advantage over cisgender women.

Published on Aug. 08, 2022

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