Confusion around the crossover period of transgender athletes is seeing some Kiwi downhill mountain bikers shy away from competition in the sport, a former world No.2 junior says.
It's a result of Kate Weatherly's involvement in women's divisions not because she's a transgender rider, but because there was just a three-week period between her competing in male and female divisions.
Weatherly, who won the national women's championship in Wanaka last Sunday, rode as a male until December last year, then competed as a women for the beginning of the 2018 National Downhill Series in January.
With no notice that Weatherly would be allow to ride in the female division so soon after, fellow rider Shania Rawson said there was a bit of confusion around the rules.
"She's been riding as a guy for four or five years then with no stand down period whatsoever she was in the girls' category," Rawson said. "I thought there would be some sort of stand down period for that situation.
"I've got nothing against Kate at all…I'm just confused by the rules and am trying to figure it all out."
Cycling New Zealand's transgender policy states that those who transition from male to female were eligible to compete in the female category under two conditions, the first of which was the athlete declaring her gender identity is female. That declaration cannot be changed for a minimum of four years.
Secondly, the athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L (nanomoles per litre) for at least 12 months prior to her first competition, with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimise any advantage in women's competition.
It also states the national body and its members should treat a transsexual person as belonging to the sex they identify as, unless this might give the transsexual person an unfair advantage, or would be a risk to the safety of competitors.
"Any negative effect of restricting the participation of transsexual people must be mitigated as far as possible, to permit as much inclusion as is fair and safe," the policy states.
Rawson, the former No.2 junior women's rider in the world, finished second to Weatherly in the National Championships in Wanaka at the weekend – 13 seconds behind. Third-placed Amy Cole crossed the line 47 seconds behind Weatherly.
It was a small field for the elite women's championship race, with just five starting riders. Rawson said a number of girls didn't want to race as they felt it was unfair for Weatherly to be allowed to ride immediately.
Weatherly had been in communication with Cycling New Zealand to ensure she was well within the limits that they had set before she made the switch to the women's field. However, she said perhaps her being allowed to switch over at the start of the year should have been more widely broadcast so everyone was aware of it.
"It's kind of one of those things where I'd like everyone to be on the same page," Weatherly said. "If everyone's not happy then maybe everyone's not doing their best racing and I just want everyone to be having fun and doing their best."
"I know some people thought I made the switch over as soon as I was able to when that wasn't the case. It happened to be that time when everything seemed like it would be the easiest time to make that switch.
"I talked to some of the other competitors beforehand and at the time they had been supportive of me. Some of them are still supportive, some of them aren't, but maybe the discussion needed to be released in a more public way."
Weatherly noted that she hadn't won every race since making the switch - finishing second to Rawson at an event in Canterbury earlier in the month.
"There's that whole conversation of fairness in the sport, but I've been beaten by other chicks in the sport. It's not like I'm winning every race."
Rawson said she and some other of the riders in the women's division had reached out to Cycling New Zealand for clarification on the rules since, however the chairman Andrew Matheson said he was not aware of any concerns from other riders.
"Cycling New Zealand has a transgender policy and it's been drafted in accordance with the IOC's rulings. So we're consistent with the IOC, which has been adopted by the international cycling federation (UCI)
"What I can confirm is we've got a really clear policy, in line with UCI and IOC protocols. The athlete has demonstrated that she is fully compliant with that policy and is quite entitled to race.
"I think the thing people need to realise is there is a clear policy and Kate Weatherly was within that policy and entitled to race."
To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here