The EU has ordered the skating union to release its stranglehold on athletes

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Grenoble, Nov 2017
ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Grenoble, Nov 2017
Image: Reuters/Robert Pratta
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The International Skating Union (ISU) is on thin ice with the European Commission’s competition commissioner. Margrethe Vestager announced today (Dec. 8) that the ISU is in breach of EU antitrust laws because of the harsh penalties it imposes on its members when they take part in speed-skating competitions that are not ISU-approved.

The ISU, which has been around since 1892, is the governing body for speed and figure-skating. It has a tight grip on its athletes, and can even ban them for life from big international skating events if they take part in other, non-ISU-sanctioned competitions.

Vestager said that while the ISU’s job in safeguarding athletes’ health and safety is important, its penalties “serve to protect its own commercial interests and prevent others from setting up their own events.”

These draconian rules can stop professional skaters from earning money from outside competitions, and as a result, means independent skating competitions can’t attract the big names. The fans are the losers too, as the sport is choked of fresh innovation.

The union won’t be fined for now, but has 90 days to either relax or ditch its rigid rules. If it doesn’t, it will be liable for a non-compliance fine of up to 5% of its average daily global turnover.