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Dutch speed skaters contact EC over ISU ban threat

Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt have turned to the European Commission in an effort to stop the International Skating Union (ISU) from imposing bans on skaters that compete in big-money ‘Ice Derby’ events.

Run by Korean event organiser Icederby International, Ice Derby racing offers unprecedented prize money in an effort to attract the world’s best skaters. Events operate in a similar fashion to horseracing in that spectators are able to place bets on the outcome of races.

The Reuters news agency said Ice Derby events have not yet been sanctioned by the ISU as the governing body said such competitions are in breach of its regulations on gambling. However, Icederby International said there would be no on-site betting activities at an event in October, which will offer total prize money of $2m (€1.5m) and will take place in Dubai. The organiser said Dubai’s strict laws prohibit such gambling activities and hence the event would not violate ISU regulations.

Tuitert (pictured) and Kerstholt said the ISU had threatened lifetime bans for athletes that opt to take part in Ice Derby events. Such bans would prevent skaters from competing at future winter Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cups. The pair contacted the European Commission this week over their concerns. “The ISU rules are in violation of important European antitrust rules,” the skaters said in a statement.

European Commission spokeswoman Chantal Hughes said the organisation had received the complaint about anti-competitive behaviour.

The Netherlands is the powerhouse of speed skating and Dutch athletes picked up 23 of 36 medals available at the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.