Jan Dijkema, President of the International Skating Union, has warned that the European Commission could “destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport” if they go against the ISU in a test case to be judged this month.
The Commission is due to rule on the appeal made against the ISU by Dutch speed skaters Mark Tuitert, who won the 1500m at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, and Nels Kersholt.
Tuitert and Kersholt have challenged the ISU’s right to sanction competitors for taking part in unauthorised commercial events.
If their position is upheld, it could mark a change in the status quo within European sport similar to that which occurred with the 1995 ruling in favour of Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman which secured free movement of players within the EU.
Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee President, told the European Council of Sports Ministers in Brussels last month: "We are deeply concerned about certain interpretations of the European treaty and EU competition law with regard to sports.
"If everything in Europe is looked at only from a business perspective, the social value of sport is lost - sport is about so much more than business."
Dijkema told insidethegames: “Any allegation that the ISU’s rules are somehow anti-competitive appears to be based on a misplaced understanding of the governance structure of sport and the Olympic movement.
“The European Union’s founding Treaty as well as the EU institutions have long recognized the autonomous governance structure of sport as being essential to the protection of the integrity, safety and health in sport.
“These rules benefit sports organisers, sportspersons and spectators. The ISU reiterates that independent organisers are able to organise international tournaments on the ISU international calendar.
“Indeed, the ISU recently authorised an event in the Netherlands to be co-organized by Icederby – the organisation which initiated the complaint through two Dutch Skaters.
“As such, there is no basis for the Commission’s claim that organisers are foreclosed from the market.
“It appears then that the European Commission has failed to take adequate account of the importance of the legitimate objectives pursued by the ISU’s eligibility rules.
“A neoliberal and deregulated approach to sport could destroy the Olympic values underpinning sport.”
Read the full interview with Jan Dijkema here.