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Cycling-British federation bars transgender women from competing in female category

FILE PHOTO: A competitor cycles through a puddle during the Senior Women's race at the British Cyclocross championships near Milnthorpe

(Note: Some readers may find language in paragraph 14 offensive)

By Lori Ewing

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - British Cycling became the latest sports governing body to ban transgender women from competing in the female category of competitive events on Friday, tightening its rules around participation to "safeguard the fairness" of the sport.

Announced after a nine-month policy review, the new rules, which come into effect at the end of 2023, divide cyclists into "female" and "open" categories in a departure from cycling's international governing body.

The female category remains for those whose sex was assigned female at birth and transgender men who are yet to begin hormone therapy. The open category will be for male athletes, transgender women and men, non-binary individuals and those whose sex was assigned male at birth.

British Cycling CEO Jon Dutton said he was confident that the governing body has "developed policies that both safeguard the fairness of cyclesport competition, whilst ensuring all riders have opportunities to participate."

The federation apologised to transgender athletes for the long delay in writing a new policy after suspending its previous one last year.

"We recognise the impact the suspension of our policy has had on trans and non-binary people, and we are sorry for the uncertainty and upset that many have felt during this period,” he said.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) allows transgender women with reduced testosterone to take part in female events, but will announce results of a policy review in August.

Friday's announcement, which follows similar rules set by Swim England and UK Athletics, means 22-year-old British cyclist Emily Bridges will not be able to compete in the female category.

Some of the UK's top women riders threatened to boycott the British National Omnium Championships last year over Bridges' inclusion in the female category.

Bridges condemned the rule changes in a scathing Instagram post on Friday, calling British Cycling a "failed organisation."

"British Cycling has just banned us from racing," she wrote. "They have no authority to control this conversation anymore.

"I know a lot of people will think I'm being dramatic," Bridges continued. "I'm having to consider an exit plan from this terrible island and figure out what point enough is enough. It terrifies me to exist at the moment... I don't even know if I want to race my bike any more."

Retired British swimmer Sharron Davies, a silver medallist at the 1980 Olympics and author of "Unfair Play: The Battle For Women's Sport," is a vocal opponent of the inclusion of trans and non-binary athletes.

"So it's ok to be discriminatory against females but not trans identifying males? I'm so over this PC crap… Do sport in categories based on the sex you are… not the sex you'd like to be but are not!" Davies tweeted on Friday.

The policy review was conducted by a working group in consultation with 14 focus groups plus a number of one-on-one interviews. It led to two new policies: Policy for Competitive Activity for all British Cycling-sanctioned competitive events, and Policy for Non-Competitive Activity.

The new policies were endorsed by the board last month.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Toby Davis)