Retired Olympian wants cyclists to ‘take the knee’ to protest trans athletes

Colin Kaepernick taking the knee and 10-time US National Champion Inga

A retired Olympic cyclist, Inga Thompson, has called for athletes to co-opt the anti-racist gesture of “taking the knee” to “save women’s sports” from trans athletes.

Taking the knee has become synonymous with protest against anti-Black racism and police brutality. The gesture was popularised by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who started kneeling for the national anthem in 2016, explaining that couldn’t “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour”.

Kaepernick’s protests effectively ended his football career. In 2019, he reached a settlement with the NFL after suing for owners for colluding to keep him out of the league.

Thompson, who competed in three Olympics for Team US in the 80s and 90s, has suggested anti-trans athletes should also “start taking a knee”, to protest against Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) policies for trans inclusion.

“It is time for women cyclist [sic] to start protesting @UCI_cycling policy,” Thompson, also a 10-time US National Champion and two-time podium finisher in the Women’s Tour de France, tweeted on Sunday (7 May).

“Start taking a knee at the starting lines. Team managers need to speak up and protect their riders. Hold signs at every race ‘Save Women’s Sports’.”

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The UCI has been hit with a wave of anti-trans outrage since a trans cyclist, Austin Killips, won a stage of the Tour of the Gila women’s race in New Mexico on 30 April.

Following a management committee meeting on 4 May, the UCI confirmed it will reopen conversations about trans athletes participating in races. 

The governing body said in a statement: “The UCI’s objective remains the same: to take into consideration, in the context of the evolution of our society, the desire of transgender athletes to practice cycling. 

“The UCI also hears the voices of female athletes and their concerns about an equal playing field for competitors and will take into account all elements, including the evolution of scientific knowledge.”

Inga Thompson told PinkNews: “There should be peaceful protests to change the policy at the International Cycling Union.

“I am speaking up for women to have an opportunity to compete on a fair playing field.”

Ingham argued that studies have shown “that no amount of testosterone suppression mitigates the advantages of being born male”.

However, there are many pieces of research that say trans women have no advantage over cis women in elite sport.

An in-depth review, commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, of all scientific literature published between 2011 and 2021 in English regarding trans women and their participation in elite-level sports concluded that trans women who have begun testosterone suppression have no clear biological advantage.

The International Olympics Commitee announced in November 2021 that after extensive research, it no longer considers testosterone limits to be the most important factor in deciding whether trans women should be permitted to compete alongside cis women.

“It’s perfectly clear now that performance is not proportional to your endogenous, in-built testosterone,” IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett said at the time. This saw the IOC drop its blanket policies, allowing sports to set their own rules.

What are the UCI’s rules on trans cyclists?

Currently the UCI’s rules, which were set in June 2022, stipulate that trans women must have testosterone levels of 2.5 nanomoles per litre or less for at least 24 months before competing in its events. 

The UCI said its transgender policy is “based on the latest scientific knowledge”.

‘How can you willing be blind to the truth’

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, who is now regarded as a civil rights activist, took the knee before a NFL match following a number of deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers, including those of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland.

Speaking about his activism when he received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2018, he said: “How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates freedom and justice for all, that is so unjust to so many of the people living there? 

“How can you not be in a rage when you know that you are always at risk of death in the streets or enslavement in the prison system? How can you willingly be blind to the truth of systemic racialised injustice?” 

Other players, including Eric Reid, followed Kaepernick’s lead and were met with strong resistance.

But the gesture of taking the knee has since been seen across the world following the the murder of George Floyd by white police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

England footballers took the knee at the men’s World Cup and at the women’s Euros in 2022.

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