The UCI said its changes reflected the "important role played by muscle strength and power in cycling" ©Getty Images

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has updated its rules on the participation of transgender athletes, increasing the transition period on low testosterone to two years and lowering the maximum permitted plasma testosterone level.

The decisions were taken at the Management Committee meeting in Arzon, and UCI President David Lappartient claimed that the change is in line with updated scientific understanding.

"With the adaptation of new rules for the participation of transgender athletes in competitions on the UCI international calendar, our sport has a regulation that is fully consistent with the most recent scientific knowledge in this area," said Lappartient, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"It is indeed important in this field to rely on objective knowledge to reconcile the very real need for inclusion with the essential need for fairness."

Previous UCI rules published in March 2020 had required transgender athletes to demonstrate to the satisfaction of an expert panel that the concentration of testosterone in their serum had been less than five nanomoles per litre for a period of 12 months.

The transition period has been extended to 24 months by the Management Committee, and the maximum plasma testosterone level lowered to 2.5 nanomoles per litre.

The UCI said that this "corresponds to the maximum testosterone level found in 99.99 per cent of the female population", and that the changes are "intended to promote the integration of transgender athletes into competitive sport, while maintaining fairness, equal opportunities and the safety of competitions."

Rules on transgender and non-binary participation in cycling were brought into the spotlight earlier this year following the case of British cyclist Emily Bridges.

Bridges was due to compete in the women's event at the British National Omnium Championships, only for the UCI to inform British Cycling that she was ineligible to compete three days beforehand.

British Cycling suspended its transgender policy in April pending a review due to discrepancies in its rules and those of the UCI.

Italy has been awarded hosting rights for the 2022 and 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships ©Getty Images
Italy has been awarded hosting rights for the 2022 and 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships ©Getty Images

Critics have argued that transgender athletes may retain advantages when competing in women's sport, while supporters insist that potential advantages can be suppressed and emphasised the importance of inclusivity.

IOC President Thomas Bach has insisted there is "no one-size-fits-all solution" to transgender participation in sport.

This followed a new framework approved by the IOC in November last year for transgender and differences in sexual development athletes which recommends more flexibility to International Federations.

The UCI said its updated regulations took account of "the important role played by muscle strength and power in cycling performance".

The Management Committee also approved the UCI's Agenda 2030 at its latest meeting, following on from Agenda 2022.

This focuses on areas including the worldwide development of cycling, innovation and development of competitions, and the promotion of sustainable cycling.

A full copy is due to be published by the UCI in September after it has been presented to the Congress in Wollongong.

The UCI claimed that it is "in a healthy financial position" after the approval of its 2021 Financial Report.

UCI President David Lappartient claimed Agenda 2030
UCI President David Lappartient claimed Agenda 2030 "marks the beginning of a new era of progress for cycling" ©Getty Images

"The approval of the Agenda 2030 to follow on from the Agenda 2022, whose objectives have nearly all been achieved, marks the beginning of a new era of progress for cycling," Lappartient commented.

"Within this new framework, we will continue the efforts already being made and put even greater emphasis on all the initiatives that will increasingly place cycling at the heart of the positive transformation of our societies in a context that is both challenging and rich in opportunities for the future.

"As our 2021 Annual Report shows, the UCI, together with the cycling community, is in a situation - particularly financially - that enables it to move in this direction."

Moreover, the Management Committee awarded Italy hosting rights for the first two editions of the UCI Gravel World Championships.

The Veneto region is set to stage the 2022 edition on October 8 and 9, with the 2023 host still to be confirmed.

It was also agreed that the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will be scheduled for February 2023, with qualifying to be held in November of this year.

Four events have been added to next year's UCI Women's WorldTour - the Women’s Santos Tour Down Under, UAE Tour, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tour de Suisse.

This season's UCI WorldTour and Women's WorldTour are due to end on October 8 and October 15 respectively, with the men's Gree-Tour of Guangxi and women's Tour of Guangxi which were due to be held in China after those dates cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Management Committee also criticised organisers of the RideLondon Classique, a UCI Women’s WorldTour event, for only providing live television coverage of the last stage, accusing them of "an unacceptable lack of respect for the teams and riders involved in the competition."

The race's registration on next year's Women's WorldTour is conditional to receive firm commitments on the broadcasting of all stages.

The Management Committee's next meeting is due to be held in Wollongong from September 19 to 21 alongside the Road World Championships.