Three-time Winter Olympic gold medallist Mark Tuitert brought the initial legal challenge against the ISU ©Getty Images

Icederby has welcomed a ruling by the European Union (EU) General Court that determined it was unlawful for the International Skating Union (ISU) to stop athletes from participating in events not run by the governing body, saying the result allows "speed skaters to guide their own careers."

The ISU previously banned athletes from taking part in financially lucrative but unsanctioned events such as Icederby, but the EU General Court has now backed an earlier ruling from the European Commission, made in 2017.

The European Commission said the move breached EU competition law.

Following the initial judgement the ISU amended its eligibility rules in 2018.

In its ruling, the EU General Court also declared invalid an initial decision which would have required the ISU to amend its eligibility rules with respect to the Court of Arbitration for Sport arbitration system.

The initial legal challenge was brought by two speed skaters from the Netherlands Mark Tuitert, a three-time Winter Olympic gold medallist and Niels Kerstholt, a three-time World Championship medallist.

Tuitert and Kerstholt launched the appeal against their inability to participate at the events and the latest verdict has been welcomed by Icederby.

"The judgement of the General Court means the door remains wide open for speed skaters to guide their own careers without threat of, or actual loss of eligibility for participating in independent third-party international speed skating events such as Icederby," said Icederby in a statement.

In its ruling the General Court wrote: "The General Court, called upon to rule for the first time on a Commission decision finding that rules adopted by a sports federation do not comply with EU competition law, confirms that the classification of a restriction of competition by object established by the Commission in respect of the rules at issue is well founded, but partially annuls the contested decision as regards the corrective measures imposed on the ISU."

Icederby also highlighted a section of the ruling from the EU General Court which they said they "noted with satisfaction."

That section of the ruling reads: "In the present case, it may be considered that it was legitimate for the applicant (ISU) to establish rules seeking to prevent sport betting from creating risks of manipulation of competitions and athletes.

"The fact remains that, they go beyond what is necessary to achieve such an objective within the meaning of the case-law.

"Accordingly, the applicant’s argument that the restrictions arising from the eligibility rules are justified by the objective of protecting the integrity of speed skating from the risks associated with betting must be rejected."

The ISU also welcomed the ruling saying: "The ISU notes with satisfaction that the General Court has recognised the legitimacy of the ISU's pre-authorisation system intended to ensure that any organiser of sporting competitions 'comply with common standards', seeking in particular to ensure that competitions take place fairly and the physical and ethical integrity of sportspeople is protected.

"The Court judgment relates to a version of the eligibility rules which is no longer in force and therefore has no impact on the ISU's current operations."

Despite the ongoing dispute, a team from the ISU did observe an Icederby test event in the Netherlands in February last year.

The event passed health and safety protocols and Icederby say they are now looking forward to announcing the date and location of their first event, ICE1, which they hope to finalise as soon as it is safe to do so considering the coronavirus pandemic.