BRUSSELS, June 26 (Reuters) - Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt have urged the EU competition watchdog to stop their sport’s governing body from banning skaters who compete in big-money Ice Derby events.
Ice Derby racing, run by Korean event organiser Icederby International, aims to attract top skaters with unprecedented prize money for events at which spectators can gamble on the results in much the same way as at horse races.
The new events have not been sanctioned by the International Skating Union (ISU) because it says they are in breach of its regulations on gambling.
Tuitert and Kerstholt said the ISU had threatened a lifetime ban for those who compete in Ice Derby events, including an October meeting in Dubai offering $2 million in prize money, which would prevent skaters from taking part part in the Winter Olympics, World Championships and World Cups.
The Dutch rule the world in speed skating, picking up 23 of the 36 medals available at this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Kerstholt, who finished second in the 1,000 metres at the World Cup in Shanghai, and Tuitert, who won gold in the 1,500 metres at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, filed their complaint with the European Commission this week.
“The ISU rules are in violation of important European antitrust rules,” the skaters said in a statement.
European Commission spokeswoman Chantal Hughes confirmed receipt of the complaint about anti-competitive behaviour.
The ISU declined to comment, saying it had not received such a complaint.
The Commission can fine organisations and companies found guilty of anti-competitive practices and order them to halt such actions. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman)