A major sponsor of a British Cycling race has pulled out in protest at the governing body suspending their transgender policy.
Peter Stanton is a significant benefactor of the Women’s CiCLE Classic, which is part of British Cycling’s National Road Series.
However, the engineer has withdrawn his funding of the race – and its men’s junior equivalent – over British Cycling’s ‘totally unacceptable’ decision to effectively block trans riders from competing.
The CiCLE Classic event, due to take place in Leicestershire on June 19, now needs to find sponsorship money of £15,000 by May 10 to prevent cancellation.
Last week, British Cycling announced they were suspending their existing trans policy pending a full review in the wake of the Emily Bridges controversy.
It meant trans woman Bridges, who had reduced her testosterone to the level required to ride as a female under the rules, was blocked from competing in domestic events, such as the CiCLE Classic.
Emily Bridges (pictured in 2018) was blocked from competing in domestic events following the decision by British Cycling to suspend their trans policy pending a full review
‘I am desperately saddened by the Emily Bridges case and the actions that it has prompted me to take,’ said Stanton, who has sponsored the race since its inception in 2016.
‘The transgender policy adopted by British Cycling had been the result of a full consultation process and was believed to have been working well until last week when it was suspended without any further consultation.
‘Whilst fully supportive of women’s sport, I also have many friends and colleagues within the transgender community whom I feel that I would be letting down if I did not make a stand to show my support for their rights.
‘This is not the first case of a transgender rider competing under UCI rules, or even as part of an official UCI team, and to arbitrarily change that position based on one individual case, I find totally unacceptable.
‘I sincerely hope that a satisfactory resolution to her case and that of similar cases in the future can be quickly found in the interests of all parties involved, and sport in general.’
As previously reported by Sportsmail, Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered the row last week as he said: ‘I don’t think that biological men should be competing in female sporting events.’
His intervention followed furious debate in recent weeks over the participation of Bridges and transgender US swimmer Lia Thomas in women’s sports competitions.
British Cycling updated its transgender and non-binary participation policy in January which enabled Bridges to take part in a women’s category.
Bridges, who started hormone therapy last year, could enter the British Omnium Championships due to her testosterone levels being below five nanomoles per litre for a 12-month period prior to the event.
Boris Johnson joined the row by saying ‘biological men shouldn’t compete in female events’
But world governing body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) thwarted the Welsh rider’s plans to compete at the event in Derby because it had not yet deemed her eligible to race in international competitions – and she therefore had to pull out at the 11th hour.
She would have been able to compete in domestic events, but that was made not possible due to the move by British Cycling.
Bridges’ mother Sandy Sullivan responded shortly after the news was made public, claiming her daughter had been ‘dumped by email’.
A British Cycling spokesman said: ‘On Wednesday 6 April the British Cycling Board of Directors voted in favour of an immediate suspension of the current policy, pending a full review, which will be initiated in the coming weeks.
‘While the current policy was created following an extensive external and internal consultation, the review will allow us time for further discussion with all stakeholders, including women and the transgender and non-binary communities, as we strive to provide all within our sport with the clarity and understanding they deserve.
‘As an organisation we remain committed to ensuring that transgender and non-binary people are welcomed, supported and celebrated in the cycling community, and the inclusion of these groups within non-competitive activities remains unaffected by the suspension.
‘We will also continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our sport remains free of hate, discrimination and abuse in all forms, and that we prioritise the welfare of riders, volunteers, event organisers, commissaires and others that our sport can’t continue without.’
Natal female athletes had been considering boycotting the British Omnium Championships if Bridges had been allowed to compete, and British Cycling’s head of Olympic programmes Sara Symington co-signed a letter to the UCI criticising its current policy on transgender inclusion.
A significant sponsor of the Women’s CiCLE event has withdrawn their funding over British Cycling’s decision ‘totally unacceptable’ decision to block trans riders from competing
The letter signatories claimed the UCI’s current rules do not guarantee female athletes fair and meaningful competition
Despite the Prime Minister’s calls for Bridges to be banned, UK Sport – the body responsible for distributing public money – insist they would happily hand her Lottery funding if she is deemed eligible to ride by cycling’s world governing body and is good enough to compete for Great Britain.
‘We will support every or any athlete who a sport or governing body has deemed to have future potential and is eligible to compete,’ said UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.
‘With regards to what is said politically, we have been really clear in our guidance that it is down for sports to decide what the rules should be.’
Bridges previously received funding of at least £8,000 when she was on British Cycling’s senior academy as a male rider named Zach as recently as 2020.
British Cycling, who cleared Bridges to ride before the UCI’s intervention, said before the ban they would consider selecting the 21-year-old in future teams if she was eligible, including for the Paris Olympics in 2024.