Transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon continues to dominate women’s cycling.
It has not been an easy ride.
Last weekend at the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester, England, the 37-year-old Canadian first set a world record in qualifying for the 35-39 age category 200-meter sprint, then went on to defend her title in the finals.Her success, however, has been overshadowed by frustrated competitors.
In an interview with Sky News, former cycling champion Victoria Hood said, “It is not complicated. The science is there and it says that it is unfair. The male body, which has been through male puberty, still retains its advantage; that doesn’t go away. I have sympathy with them. They have the right to do sport but not a right to go into any category they want.”
In a press release in response to Hood’s comments, McKinnon denounced her for having “an irrational fear of trans women.”
“By preventing trans women from competing or requiring them to take medication, you’re denying their human rights,” McKinnon told Sky News before the event.
“All my medical records say female,” McKinnon said. “My doctor treats me as a female person, my racing license says female, but people who oppose my existence still want to think of me as male. … So, if we want to say, that I believe you’re a woman for all of society, except for this massive central part that is sport, then that’s not fair.”
It’s not the first time a competitor has spoken out about their frustrations with having to race against her.
“It was an unfair race, and I accepted that when I pinned on the number, and I tried to do my best to overcome the unfairness,” said Jennifer Wagner-Assali, who took bronze behind McKinnon last year but did not compete on Saturday. “I do feel that hard-fought freedoms for women’s sport are being eroded.
“If we continue to let this happen, there will be men’s sports and co-ed sports, but there won’t be any women’s sports.”
McKinnon dismissed the notion that she was dominating the women’s sport, stating, “I haven’t won any Olympic medals. I haven’t won any elite world championships.”
Since 2004, transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics but only if they had undergone gender confirmation surgery and been on hormone therapy for two years.
Four years ago, the Olympic committee removed the need for surgery. But athletes are required to have a testosterone level below 10nmol/L for at least a year before their first competition.
An average adult female range for testosterone is 0.52 to 2.8 nmol/L, with levels exceeding 2.7 considered to be the “upper limit of normal.”
The maximum level of testosterone allowed was supposed to be cut in half prior to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but the International Olympic Committee can’t come to an agreement and the guidelines have yet to be released.
After concerns about transgender athletes having an advantage in the Rio 2016 Olympics, Loughborough University conducted a study by reviewing 31 national and international sporting policies, including those of the International Olympic Committee, the Football Association and the Lawn Tennis Association.
The study concluded that a majority of policies unfairly discriminated against transgender people, especially trans women. Karolinksa Institute in Sweden also conducted research that suggested testosterone suppression for transgender women has little effect on reducing muscle strength.