BRUSSELS (AP) — Rules imposed by the International Skating Union that sanction athletes for taking part in events not recognized by the governing body are in breach of European Union competition law, the EU’s general court said Wednesday.
The ruling is the latest episode in a case which started five years ago when an EU investigation was launched following a complaint by Dutch speedskaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt. Tuitert, an Olympic champion from the 2010 Vancouver Games, and Kerstholdt wanted to join a new South Korean competition in Dubai, the Icederby, but said they were threatened with a ban if they did.
The Icederby offered prize money of $2 million, and the ISU has said it feared it would become a target for betting. The event never took place because of a lack of competitors.
The general court said the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — was right when it decided in December 2017 that the ISU’s regulations had “as their object the restriction of competition.”
The commission ruled that the severe penalties imposed on skaters served to protect the ISU’s commercial interests, and ordered the federation to lift the regulations. The ISU contested the ruling and brought legal action before the general court.
“The General Court, called upon to rule for the first time on a Commission decision finding that rules adopted by a sports federation do not comply with EU competition law, confirms that the classification of a restriction of competition by object established by the Commission in respect of the rules at issue is well founded,” the court said.
It, however, said the commission was wrong to dispute the ISU’s arbitration rules and to agitate the threat of potential periodic penalty payments.
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