EU regulators say speed skating ban threat is anti-competitive

Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:59am EDT
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators have told the International Skating Union (ISU) that its threat to impose lifetime bans on speed skaters for taking part in unauthorized events is anti-competitive, putting pressure on the ruling body and other agencies with similar penalties to back down.

The European Commission's action on Tuesday came after a year-long investigation following complaints by Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt.

The skaters said the sport's governing body had threatened to bar athletes from ISU events if they compete in big-money Ice Derby events run by a South Korean company.

The Commission said such rules restrict athletes' commercial freedom and prevent new entrants from organizing alternative international speed skating events as they are unable to attract top athletes.

"We have concerns that the penalties the ISU imposes on skaters through its eligibility rules are not aimed at preserving high standards in sport but rather serve to maintain the ISU's control over speed skating," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The Commission said a system of penalties revised by the ISU in June, which range from five-year to lifetime banks, remains disproportionately punitive.

The ISU said the EU charges were unfounded.

"A neoliberal and deregulated approach to sport could destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport," the governing body said on its website.   Continued...

Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands reacts after the men's 1,500 metres speed skating race in the Adler Arena at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato