Cycling’s governing body – the UCI – has defended its transgender policy after Austin Killips won overall victory in the recent Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.
Killips is the first openly transgender woman to win an official UCI women’s stage race, according to the Tour of the Gila website. The 27-year-old American triumphed on Sunday after winning the fifth stage of the event.
Killips also won the Queen of the Mountains polka dot jersey, which is awarded to the best climber.
“The UCI acknowledges that transgender athletes may wish to compete in accordance with their gender identity,” the governing body said in a statement sent to CNN on Wednesday.
“The UCI rules are based on the latest scientific knowledge and have been applied in a consistent manner,” the statement continued, adding that the organization “continues to follow the evolution of scientific findings and may change its rules in the future as scientific knowledge evolves.”
The UCI updated its rules around the participation of transgender athletes last year, announcing that transgender women must have serum testosterone levels of 2.5 nanomoles per liter or below for at least 24 months in order to compete in women’s categories.
Among the critics of Killips’ victory on Sunday was former Olympic cyclist Inga Thompson, who said on Twitter that the UCI is “effectively killing off women’s cycling” with its policy on transgender athletes competing in women’s categories.
Meanwhile, sports scientist Ross Tucker, also writing on Twitter, called on sports like cycling to “respect women’s rights” amid an “abdication of its leaders.”
For her part, Killips said she had experienced “a week of nonsense on the internet” and is “especially thankful to everyone in the peloton and sport who continue to affirm that twitter is not real life.”
Writing on Instagram, she added: “I love my peers and competitors and am grateful for every opportunity I get to learn and grow as a person and athlete on course together.”
In a statement on the race website, Tour of the Gila organizers said they are “required to follow the rules and regulations set forth by UCI.”
The statement added: “Tour of the Gila recognizes the passionate debate regarding rider eligibility and classifications of riders set by UCI and USA Cycling and encourages UCI and USA Cycling to host an open discussion on the matter.”