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BRUSSELS, Dec 8 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators sided on Friday with speed skaters seeking to compete in new money-spinning events as they ordered the sport's governing body ISU to scrap "disproportionately punitive" penalties aimed at stopping athletes from doing so.
The landmark decision could affect other sports and become as important a milestone as the 1995 court ruling involving Belgian soccer player Jean-Marc Bosman, which paved the way for the free movement of players in the EU.
It could make it easier for unofficial and 'breakaway' events and competitions to be set up without the approval of a sports' governing body.
The European Commission ruling was triggered by a complaint by Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt after they were put off competing in lucrative Ice Derby events run by a South Korean company by threats of a lifetime ban.
"The severe penalties the International Skating Union imposes on skaters also serve to protect its own commercial interests and prevent others from setting up their own events," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Reuters reported on Nov. 14 that the EU was set to act against the ISU.
The EU competition enforcer said ISU must stop the illegal conduct within 90 days or face fines up to 5 percent of its average daily worldwide turnover. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)