The cyclist who finished third in a women’s world championship race won by a biological man says she is working to change the rules.
“For those of you who think I have ‘folded’ I have not,” Bronze medalist Jennifer Wagner-Assali wrote in a Tweet Thursday. “There’s a group of us working on getting the rules changed but we are going to fight it offline, not in the name-calling angry world of social media. I’m choosing to move on in a positive way.”
Wagner-Assali finished third Sunday in the 35-44 female age bracket at the UCI Masters track cycling championships in Los Angeles. Rachel McKinnon, a transgender woman who was born a man, won the race.
Wagner-Assali tweeted on Sunday that the race was “NOT fair” and that “just because it’s a CURRENT UCI rule doesn’t make it fair or right. And rules can be changed.”
On Thursday, she expressed regret with what she had said, but not on her position on the issue.
“After having some time to reflect, I realize my twitter comments earlier this week unintentionally fanned the flames on a controversial situation, and that I regret,” she wrote. “I made the comments out of a feeling of frustration, but they weren’t productive or positive.
“They were just inflammatory, and that’s not who I want to be or am,” Wagner-Assali added. “While I may not agree with the rules, when I pin on a number I agree to race by them.”
She then apologized to McKinnon “for not properly congratulating you on race day.”
“I hope you accept it a few days late,” Wagner-Assali wrote. “Congratulations and enjoy your off-season.”
McKinnon, though, said she would not accept the apology.
“The apology is appreciated but not accepted,” McKinnon wrote on Twitter “It’s not clear to me that Jennifer has changed her mind on whether trans women competing is fair. It’s not merely ‘inflammatory’ to proclaim that it’s unfair for trans women to compete: it’s transphobic + creates a hostile environment.”
McKinnon later added, “This is why the apology is not accepted: she still thinks what she said. She merely apologizes for being caught saying it publicly. She wants to ban trans women from competing. They will fail: the IOC openly allowed us in 2003 and revised their policies in 2015.”
Eric Vilain, a professor of human genetics at UCLA, has said it’s impossible to make a transgender woman equal to a biological woman.
“I think that is a common misconception when we start talking about transgender athletes,” he told VeloNews in 2015. “People want transgender [females] to be physiologically identical to [born] females, and if they’re not, it’s unfair. That is not possible.”
Even if testosterone is suppressed, he said, the pelvis structure and muscle mass remain different.
“Can you turn a man’s body into a woman’s body? The short answer is ‘no,” Vilain said. “I think we need to move past that idea completely.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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