3x Olympian Fights for Women’s Right to Compete—And Wins

By Ashley McClure

Olympic cyclist Inga Thompson was in elementary school when Title IX passed in 1972. This year, she celebrated the Union Cycliste Internationale’s decision to uphold women-only cycling teams as a return to the standard of fairness and equal opportunity that Title IX established. The decision, which was released in July, states that biological male cyclists who identify as transgender must compete in the “men’s/open” category – if they completed male puberty. Despite this pivotal decision for gender equality, in recent years female athletes have faced discrimination as trans-rights activists push to include natal males in female sports. 

Thompson recently found herself at the center of a media firestorm after speaking out against trans-identifying athlete Austin Killips, who was poised to strip female cyclist Chloe Dygert of her place in the upcoming Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Road World Championships. For example, progressive media brand PinkNews spread tweets from transgender community activists defaming the decorated cyclist as “transphobic” and engaging in “bitter mockery.”

“I was one of the top three in the world, and I could not have trained at the level that Austin trained without burning me out,” Thompson told Independent Women’s Forum, pointing out how sports organizations like UCI deny biological truths by enforcing policies that allow males who identify as women to play women’s sports.

Due to her outspoken support for female cyclists, she was pressured to resign from her position on the board of directors for the Cynisca Women’s Cycling Team. Unfortunately for those who hoped to censure Thompson, however, she is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. 

“When I was growing up, I wanted to do all of these men’s events […] I wanted to [compete],” Thompson said. “I constantly heard, ‘they don’t have a category for the women,’ and I grew up hearing ‘you can’t.’”

Undeterred by naysayers and empowered by the passage of Title IX, Thompson joined a women’s cross-country and track team and went on to earn a scholarship to run in college. She experienced extraordinary success during her freshman year, earning a top-four spot at the national championships. Then, Thompson’s athletic career was jeopardized when she became severely injured and had to face not only the loss of her running career, but also the loss of her scholarships, which she relied on to earn her degree. 

“I was only 20 and scared to death. [I was] absolutely scared to death,” she said.

Instead of giving up on athletics altogether, Thompson picked up cycling during the rehabilitation process and fell in love with the sport. Not long after her career-shattering injury, Thompson qualified for the Olympic trials. 

“I went to about five races, and I won all of them,” she said. “I heard that they were going to have the first women’s Tour de France ever and the first women’s Olympics ever. And I thought, I’m going to sign up for the women’s Tour de France.”

What followed was an extraordinary career, highlighted by three Olympic wins, 10 national championship wins, two Tour de France podium finishes, and three world championship medals. 

In recent years, however, Thompson has witnessed a growing threat to the kind of athletic career she was able to achieve. Biological males identifying as transgender have been thrust into the media spotlight when they enter sporting events meant for women—and rack up win after win due to physiological advantages.

When Austin Killips won the Tour de Gila, Thompson called on cyclists to protest UCI’s policy, joining in the ranks of female athlete advocates like IWV Advisor Riley Gaines or college athlete Paula Scanlan, who both competed against controversial biological male swimmer Lia Thomas.

Thompson stood her ground, despite the fact that the UCI refused to reverse its policy of allowing biological males to participate in women’s events. She joined forces with IWF at the “Our Bodies, Our Sports” rally in June 2023 to support female-only athletics. She made headlines speaking out against the UCI’s anti-woman policy and vocally opposed biological males taking females’ hard-earned medals on her Twitter account. 

Her persistence was rewarded when, on July 14, 2023, the UCI released a statement banning biologically male athletes who had completed puberty from competing in women’s cycling events. Instead, they will be required to enter a category called “men’s/open” and race against athletes who share their biological sex—allowing women the opportunity to once again win the races they train so hard for. 

“It is beautiful to watch, and I hope that future generations will look at this generation of women and how hard they had to fight,” Thompson said. “It’s been hard, but it’s going to be inspirational.”

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