The best NSW ice skaters and their families have been told to stay away from the Gay Games if they want to keep competing or taking part in major skating events.

The NSW Ice Skating Association (NSWISA) has issued a warning to its members -“ go to the Games and face ineligibility.

NSWISA president Debbie Noyes put a message on the Australian Professional Skaters Association website telling its members not to participate.

The ISU has refused to sanction the Gay Games, therefore if any of our members -˜volunteer’ or participate in any way they will be declared ineligible and will no longer be members of our organisation, the message said.

The decision not to let NSW ISU skaters participate was made within the past three weeks and has affected at least 20 members who had signed on as competitors and volunteers.

Gay Games sports director Stuart Borrie told the Star the decision was much more than disappointing for the Games and its volunteers.

It’s a tragedy for these skaters -“ who love their sport and were ready to volunteer at this event, Borrie said.

And it raises all sorts of questions about the extent an organisation can really control people’s lives.

The Gay Games applied for an ISU sanction four years ago, which was rejected on a technicality. Since then they had an understanding that ISU skaters would be able to get exemptions to allow them to participate in the Games.

Most overseas athletes and skaters from other Australian states have been able to do so.

Wendy Langton from Ice Skating Australia told the Star the state’s top skaters faced a very simple decision.

There’s no problem with NSW skaters taking part. It just means they can’t then take part in International Skating Union events. It’s a clear choice -“ no one’s saying they can’t compete, she said.

Langton stressed the rules were the same for any non-sanctioned event, and the decision not to sanction the Gay Games competition was made by the ISU. The decision had nothing to do with the Games being a gay and lesbian event.

The reason given to us was the International calendar was full. There is a very full calendar this year and as far as I’m aware the Gay Games is not usually included.

The International Skating Union covers the best skaters and the highest international competition in the world. The organisers of the Gay Games competition were expecting ISU NSW skaters to take part, especially in the final night’s Cool On Ice spectacular.

Langton said the rules against volunteering or participating were due to the ISU constitution, which stated all members must follow the decisions of the ISU and not do anything to bring the organisation into disrepute.

Anyway, it didn’t matter, she said: As far as I’m aware there was nobody from the eligible ranks who wanted to participate at the Gay Games.

Director and co-choreographer of the Cool On Ice show Mark Basto did not agree with that assessment. He told the Star this week the decision had caused angst for show organisers.

We’ve had a really hard time getting skaters to get involved in the show night. Originally we were told we could have participants for the show night, and then further down the track we’ve been told we can’t have anybody involved. The actual skaters and parents themselves were all willing to volunteer and help out, but now they can’t, he said.

Basto doubted the ISU full competition calendar excuse.

We think it’s just being homophobic. But it doesn’t make sense -“ half the male population in the sport is gay. A lot of the people who are running the association are also gay, he said.

The ice skating competition and the Cool On Ice spectacular are set to be highlights of the Games calendar. The ice show will feature former Olympian Joaquin Sandoval and has sold more than 1,000 of 1,200 tickets.

The ice skating tournament has also secured the Newtown Hotel as major sponsor.

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