An International Skating Union (ISU) rule imposing severe penalties on athletes participating in speed skating competitions unauthorised by the world governing body has been ruled as a breach of European Union anti-trust laws and must be changed.
The ruling is considered the most significant legal case in European sport since the 1995 ruling in favour of Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman which secured free movement of players within the EU.
Other sporting bodies are now likely to come under similar pressure to change their competition rules in which sporting leaders claim could “destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport”.
The European Commission, however, claim that ISU rules which had permitted sanctions, including lifetime bans, for those participating in unlicensed events were unfairly persecuting athletes and preventing the innovation and growth of the sport.
“International sports federations play an important role in athletes’ careers – they protect their health and safety and the integrity of competitions,” said European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for ruling on competition policy, when announcing the verdict today.
“However, the severe penalties the ISU imposes on skaters also serve to protect its own commercial interests and prevent others from setting up their own events.
“The ISU now has to comply with our decision, modify its rules, and open up new opportunities for athletes and competing organisers, to the benefit of all ice skating fans.”
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Photo by David Rosen Photography