A trans-identified male has taken first place in a women’s cycling tour, prompting outrage from women’s rights advocates and those concerned about fairness in women’s sport.
Over the weekend in New Mexico, elite cyclists from all over the world participated in the Tour of the Gila, an internationally known top-tier cycling competition. Coming in first place in the women’s category was a man named Austin Killips.
Killips, 27, identifies as a “woman” and has been competing in women’s cycling events since 2022, as reflected by his pro-cycling profile.
Notably, this year’s Tour of the Gila was the first in the competition’s history where the prize money for both the male and female categories was equal. But following Killips’ win, two biological males walked away with the prize pots.
Killips made his advance to first place in the final minutes of the long race. He raced as part of the Amy D Foundation team, whose director said their plan for Killips to win “worked out perfectly.” She said that the team aimed to have someone “help and protect” him after the second sprint point of the race so he could secure a breakaway to first place.
The cycling event’s official Twitter reported Killips’ “win” using feminine pronouns and stated that he “put an exclamation point on her overall race lead Sunday by winning Stage 5 Gila Monster and taking home the overall victory at Tour of the Gila.” They quickly turned off the ability for other Twitter users to comment on the post, likely in anticipation of the wave of criticism which soon followed.
Killips was previously accused of attempting to push female cyclist Hannah Arensman off the racing course at the UCI Cyclocross National Championships in December 2022.
One Twitter user shared a video of the incident that shows Killips trying to “put Arensman into the tape.” The user said it was one of at least three such attempts to push her off course, but the only one recorded on video, and had said Killips should have been disqualified for that move alone.
After the video went viral, the Los Angeles Blade called those who were defending Arensman “opponents of transgender inclusion.” Killips spoke to the LGBTQ outlet and said the allegation was “ridiculous,” even though it had been caught on film.
In a bizarre statement, the outlet tried to defend Killips by confirming that the “conditions were so horribly slippery that even the Elite Men had difficulty navigating” the course.
USA Cycling has yet to comment on the issue, which they were reportedly going to “review.”
Killips’ appearance at the Tour of the Gila was with the sponsorship of the Amy D. Foundation, which purports to “encourage and support young women through cycling, inspiring the celebration of healthy challenge and empowering the confident pursuit of lofty dreams.”
But trans-identified male participation in women’s cycling has already been said to have ended one female cyclist’s career in the sport.
Hannah Arensman, who was a 35-time winner in cyclocross racing, retired from the sport shortly after the controversy surrounding Killips attempting to push her off of the track during a women’s competition.
Arensman shared that she felt as though racing directly against male cyclists in women’s events had become so discouraging that she decided to end her cycling career.
Recalling December’s UCI Cyclocross National Championships race, she shared that her family sobbed watching Killips finish in front of her after seeing several physical interactions with him throughout the race. She came in 4th place that day after being flanked on either side by male participants in the elite women’s category.
Arensman struggles to reckon with the possibility that she was not selected to compete for the USA at the Cyclocross Worlds in February 2023 because of a male competitor.
“I have felt deeply angered, disappointed, overlooked, and humiliated that the rule makers of women’s sports do not feel it is necessary to protect women’s sports to ensure fair competition for women anymore.”
The issue of men identifying into women’s sporting categories has triggered a heated international debate which has resulted in public scrutiny of policies that prioritize a self-declared gender identity over biological sex. Last month, in a shift from recent years, sporting authority World Athletics president Sebastian Coe banned trans-identifying male athletes who have undergone a male puberty from competing against women.
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