The International Cycling Union (UCI) has approved new regulations on the eligibility of transgender athletes to compete in events on the international calendar.
The decision was made at the meeting of the UCI Management Committee in Dübendorf in Switzerland.
The new regulations, due to come into effect on March 1, are designed to encourage transgender athletes to compete in the category corresponding to their new gender, while guaranteeing a level playing field for all athletes in the competitions in question.
Up until then, the eligibility criteria for competing in the corresponding gender-identity category were those agreed on at a consensus meeting organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2015.
The IOC regulations state athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women's category without requiring surgery, provided their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre.
The provision of new scientific knowledge led to the eligibility criteria being reviewed - in particular for male-to-female athletes - at a working meeting held in Lausanne in October 2019, and which was attended by the UCI, other International Federations, experts and representatives of transgender and cisgender athletes.
As part of the new consensus, it is agreed that if an International Federation decides to use testosterone as an indicator, the transgender athlete will only be eligible to compete in the women's category if their serum testosterone level is below 5 nmol/L.
"The adoption of new directives in the UCI Regulations will provide the cycling community as a whole with a clearly defined regulatory framework that applies to everyone," UCI President David Lappartient said.
"Thanks to this consensus, achieved by a working group representing our sport’s various stakeholders, our Federation has given itself the wherewithal to take into consideration - and in reflection of developments in our society - the desire of transgender athletes to compete, while guaranteeing a level playing field for all competitors.
"This is an important step in the inclusion of transgender athletes in elite sport."
All transgender athletes wishing to compete in the category corresponding to their new gender must make their request to the medical manager appointed by the UCI, at least six weeks before the date of the first competition.
The athlete’s file will be passed on to a commission of three international experts independent of the UCI.
The commission’s members will assess the athlete’s eligibility to compete in the new gender category and will inform the UCI’s medical officer of their conclusions.
The athlete must prove that their serum testosterone level has been below 5 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to the eligibility date.
Once deemed eligible, the athlete must agree to keep their serum testosterone level below 5 nmol/L for the entire time they compete in the women's category.
The athlete must undergo serum testosterone tests conducted using a benchmark method, mass spectrometry.
Once their eligibility to compete has been confirmed, the UCI’s medical manager will be responsible for ensuring the athlete complies with the eligibility regulations throughout their sporting career.
Should they fail to do so, the medical manager may choose to suspend their eligibility to compete until such time as the athlete proves that they are able to comply with the criteria again.
In the event of any breach of the regulations, a penalty system shall come into effect.
Penalties shall range from a mere reprimand and warning to disqualification and a fine.
The UCI has asked its National Federations to include these new directives in their regulations.
Late last year, a group of International Federation representatives claimed sports bodies should mirror the testosterone threshold of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now known as World Athletics, for transgender female athletes hoping to compete at major events.
In a statement, the IAAF said IF officials were in agreement with eligibility rules passed by the world governing body in October.
Under World Athletics regulations, the concentration of testosterone in an athlete must be less than 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible.
Its previous limit was 10 nmol/L.
The IOC eligibility guidelines are used by several IFs to determine their own rules, but the organisation is looking into establishing stricter criteria.