The athlete's accomplishments were eclipsed by discourse on transgender inclusion in sports

Rachel McKinnon
Credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty

The continued success of one Canadian cyclist is reigniting the debate about the rights of transgender participants in competitive athletics.

Rachel McKinnon, an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, became the world champion at the UCI World Masters Track Cycling Championships in Los Angeles over the weekend.

McKinnon’s performance, however, was soon overshadowed by controversy, with former competitors questioning her participation in the women’s division as a transgender woman.

In a new op-ed for The Washington Post, McKinnon says she follows all regulations in order to compete, including submitting to tests that track her testosterone level: “Mine is so low it’s undetectable.”

“Trans people have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003, though a transgender person hasn’t yet won a medal,” wrote McKinnon. “Only a couple of us have won any world championships, ever. The fear that trans women will ‘take over’ sport is an irrational fear of trans people — the very definition of transphobia.”

After this weekend’s competition, Victoria Hood, a cis female former cycling champion, told Sky News that in her eyes, the issue “is not complicated.”

“The science is there and it says that it is unfair,” she said in the interview. “The male body, which has been through male puberty, still retains its advantage; that doesn’t go away.”

Hood added: “I have sympathy with them. They have the right to do sport but not a right to go into any category they want.”

In a statement denouncing those comments, McKinnon, 37, said Hood has “expressed an irrational fear of trans women.”

“Transphobia has no place in sport…,” McKinnon wrote in the press release posted to Twitter. “Fairness in sport means inclusion and respect of every athlete’s rights and identity. #SportIsAHumanRight.”

In an interview with The Sun, Hood said: “I have to remind myself that I can say what I think because it isn’t transphobic. I just want to protect women’s sport.”

McKinnon did not immediately respond to a request from PEOPLE for additional comment. Hood could not be reached by PEOPLE for comment.

The debate even caught the attention of President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who shared an article from a conservative news outlet about McKinnon on Twitter.

“You can never be woke enough,” Trump Jr. wrote in the tweet on Monday. “Sorry to all female athletes who spent their lives mastering their games.”

Respoding, McKinnon tweeted, “Oh THIS explains the explosion of hate messages I’m getting!!”

In her Washington Post piece, McKinnon directed her attention at the Trump administration, calling out the current White House’s LGBTQ track record.

“My victory comes at a time when the Trump administration is going out of its way to make life for trans people as hard as possible,” she wrote.

McKinnon also connected her situation to the grander scheme of transgender rights in the U.S.

“Let that one sink in: We can be evicted for being trans. We can be fired for being trans. We can be denied health care for being trans. Do you think that’s fair? Do you think that’s what America is about?” she concludes. “I don’t know what to say to you if you disagree with basic tenets of human decency. We will not be erased.”