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USA Cycling accused of ‘transphobia’ for stripping trans cyclist of silver medal at women’s national

USA Cycling has landed in the middle of a hubbub over transgender athletes after stripping a male-born cyclist of a silver medal won in a women’s race last week at the national championships.

Leia Genis, a 25-year-old cyclist from Atlanta, told a USA Cycling official informed her Thursday that her second-place finish in the women’s elite individual pursuit would be revoked, and pulled her from other events at the 2022 USA Cycling Junior & EliteTrack National Championships.

USA Cycling updated its press release Friday by deleting a reference to Genis and elevating third-place finisher Skyler Espinoza to the runner-up slot. Cyclist Elizabeth Stevenson, who placed fourth in the Wednesday competition, was credited as the bronze medalist.

“The transphobia is so blatant it’s almost laughable,” Genis said Saturday in an Instagram post.

USA Cycling did not respond to requests for comment, but Genis said she was preparing for the start of Thursday’s race when she was approached by an official at the competition in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania.

“The next day, as I was preparing for the mass start races, a USA Cycling official informed me that I was no longer allowed to compete and that my place on the IP podium was to be revoked on account of my trans identity,” said Genes.

SEE ALSO: Portland Public Schools defends teaching transgenderism to kindergartners

The cyclist said on social media that she was “obviously heartbroken.”

“I have worked my ass off to be here and I rightfully earned my silver medal,” Genis said. “I will continue to train and race but this experience has left me disgusted and abhorred @usacycling. Trans women are women. Sport is a human right. I deserve the right to race.”

The Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), which advocates for sex-specific categories in athletics, praised USA Cycling for rescinding Genis’ second-place finish but criticized the organization for failing to act sooner.

“Although USA Cycling and UCI made the correct decision to revoke the silver medal from the male cyclist in the women’s race due to rule violations, the integrity of the event had already been extinguished,” ICONS said Sunday in a statement. “The disruptive course of events over the past week have distracted all riders at this elite national competition.”

An artist, editor and pianist, Genis burst onto the women’s competitive cycling scene last year, winning 10 of her 18 events in 2021, according to Road Results.

After placing first in a competition in Canada in March, Genis said on Instagram: “My first international race and my first international win.”

“It feels unreal that one year ago I had never entered a bike race and now I’ve raced and won in another country. I’m quite proud of myself,” Genis said. “All this to say, it’s been a smashing start to my second season and I’m looking forward to more.”

This year, Genis has competed in eight women’s events and notched four first-place wins, including a victory two months ago in the Brooks Road Race, the Georgia state road-racing championship.

The winner of the 3,000-meter individual pursuit was Bethany Matsick, an engineering graduate student who broke a 26-year-old track record with her victory, according to Liberty University.

Genis, who congratulated Matsick for her win and “incredibly fast times,” said that she was deemed eligible for competition six weeks ago at a Union Cycliste Internationale [UCI] event at the same velodrome.

“Yet 6 weeks later, now that I am doing well at nationals, I am suddenly ineligible to compete,” said Genis.

At least one thing did change during that time: the UCI transgender policy.

As of July 1, male-born athletes who want to compete in elite female cycling must declare their gender identity is female and keep their testosterone in serum below 2.5 nanomoles/Liter for at least 24 months before the competition. The previous requirement was 5 nmol/L for 12 months.

That tougher standard may be virtually impossible for biological males to meet. The average male testosterone level runs from 7.7 to 29.4 nmol/L, while the average female range is 0.06 to 1.68 nmol/L, according to World Athletics.

The Mt. Sinai Health System places the average testosterone range slightly higher at 0.5 to 2.4 nmol/L for females, and 10 to 35 nmol/L for males.

The International Olympic Committee previously required male-born athletes seeking to compete in women’s sports to keep their testosterone in serum under 10 nmol/L. At least two trans women were able to qualify for women’s events in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics under that standard.

In November, however, the IOC shifted the onus on transgender participation to the international governing bodies for each sport, which would include the UCI.

In her Instagram post, Genis did not mention the new testosterone requirement but expressed frustration with the shifting standards on transgender participation.

“Being a trans woman in this sport is so incredibly frustrating. 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,” said Genis.

Skyler Espinoza, who went from third to second after Genis was disqualified, posted a message on Instagram saying “trans women are women, and their rights are human rights.”

“I also believe that most often barring women from opportunities comes from a place of transphobia, fear or ignorance, badly masked by the excuse of making sport ‘fair,’” said Espinoza.

In its statement, ICONS argued that the “[e]exclusion of male athletes from the women’s category is not discriminatory but necessary to ensure both safety and fairness for female athletes.”

“This event highlights the destructiveness of the ever-changing rules that seek to accommodate male athletes into the women’s category,” the group said.

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