Hannah Arensman, a 35-time national cyclocross champion who walked away from her sport at the age of 25 after losing to a transgender competitor in the women’s championships last season, appeared in her first TV interview on “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday.
Arensman initially revealed her retirement in an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court in support of a West Virginia law that would have kept transgender female athletes from competing against biological women in sports. During nationals back in December, Arensman finished in fourth place in between transgender women Austin Killips and Jenna Lingwood. She believes it caused her to be overlooked for a spot on the U.S. team for Cyclocross Worlds which occurred in February.
She told Dana Perino she believes transgender women have an advantage over biological females.
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“Absolutely. Biologically, men and women are different,” Arensman said. “Men are born with the ability to produce more testosterone and because of that they can build bigger muscles, they have bigger skeletal structure, they will develop a bigger heart, bigger lungs and so when you can pump more blood through your body quicker – when you can get more air into your lungs and into your cells – that produces a lot of differences in power.”
Arensman said Killips proved to be able to run faster, and it did not matter about what was happening with some of the technical sections of the course.
“But it was just not enough,” she said. “It didn’t matter that Austin couldn’t ride with us in a lot of the sections that were pretty technical. He could run a lot faster than most women, and it turned out that power that day won over skill – and power honed over many years.”
Arensman said there were multiple reasons why she walked away but wanted to make sure that no other biological female athlete had to experience what she experienced in her mid-20s.
“There’s definitely multiple reasons why I walked away,” Arensman said. “But it is never right to have to end your season that way – to end your season flanked on either side by two guys in the elite women’s field and I don’t want to see any other girls young or my age or older have to go through that. It’s important to get to race in fair sport.”
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The champion cyclocross competitor alluded to other women wanting to speak out but afraid to lose their jobs.
Three-time Olympic cyclist Inga Thompson has been among those women speaking out in the sport. Cynisca Cycling parted ways with Thompson for her so-called “political activity.” Thompson spoke up about the policy in the sport after Killips won the Tour of the Gila.
Arensman said there are definitely consequences for speaking out on this particular subject.
“In the sport of cycling, right now, the media really wants to push guys racing in the women’s field and along with that, a lot of the sponsors seem to feel that if you say anything against that you are hurting their brand,” Arensman said. “If you decide to speak out, you’ll probably will lose sponsorship. You’ll probably will lose your spot on your team, and you’ll get a lot of backlash on media. You might lose your job. There’s some people who would love to speak out. They’re afraid they will lose their job. A lot of cyclists, they don’t make ends meet with cycling, they have to have a daytime job. Then they train before or after their fulltime job and then race on the weekends. It’s your whole livelihood at stake.”
The highest governing body of cyclocross and cycling is the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
UCI initially defended its participation policy amid the most recent outrage at Killips but appeared to change its tone on, according to The Guardian.
“The UCI’s objective remains the same: to take into consideration, in the context of the evolution of our society, the desire of transgender athletes to practice cycling,” the organization said. “The UCI also hears the voices of female athletes and their concerns about an equal playing field for competitors and will take into account all elements, including the evolution of scientific knowledge.”
The UCI tightened its rules for transgender female riders to compete against biological females in its events. According to Reuters, the organization halved the maximum permitted plasma testosterone level to 2.5 nanomoles per liter and doubled the transition period to 24 months.
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