Russia’s sports freeze worsens following Ukraine invasion, but tennis players still allowed to compete

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Updated Tue 19:57

RUSSIA continued to pay a heavy sporting price for its invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday, frozen by a snowball sports roster with perhaps the most painful blows coming from ice skating and athletics.

However, Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be allowed to continue to compete on the WTA and ATP Tours and in Grand Slam tournaments, despite the suspension of its Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup teams.

Russia, traditionally a powerhouse in figure skating – it won six medals at the Beijing Olympics, including two golds – has seen its skaters barred from all competitions.

This excludes them from the March World Championships which will be held in Montpellier, France.

Their track and field athletes, along with those from Belarus, joined them after being kicked out of this year’s world championships – both indoor and outdoor – later on Tuesday.

“All athletes, support staff and officials from Russia and Belarus will be barred from all World Series of Athletics events for the foreseeable future, effective immediately,” World Athletics said in a statement.

“Upcoming events include the Oregon22 World Championships in Athletics, the World Indoor Championships in Athletics Belgrade 22 and the World Championships in Athletics Walking Teams Muscat 22, which kick off in Oman on Friday (March 4). .”

It was not a decision taken lightly, with World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe describing it as “going against the grain” to punish athletes “but sport needs to step up”.

“I have spoken out against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political arguments while other sectors continue their activities.

“It is different because governments, companies and other international organizations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia in all sectors.

“Sport must step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and must not let this one pass.

Belarusian athletes are being punished as the country faces international condemnation for being used as a launching pad by Russian forces to attack neighboring Ukraine.

Both are major blows for Russia, which under President Vladimir Putin had used sport as a powerful force for its image, both globally and internally.

Under his presidency, it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi – although this was overshadowed by the state-sponsored doping scandal – and the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

On Monday, the governing bodies that oversee these sporting showpieces hit Russia hard.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged sports federations and organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.

Hours later, FIFA expelled Russia from the 2022 World Cup as world football governing body and UEFA joined forces to expel Russian national teams and clubs from all international competitions.

Russian football suffered another blow on Tuesday when German sports equipment giant Adidas suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Federation.

Adidas achieved 2.9% of its turnover in 2020 in the “Russia, Ukraine and CIS” regions.

– Tennis players escape ban –

Russian female tennis players, including new men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian women’s world number three Aryna Sabalenka, will be allowed to continue competing in major individual events.

Daniel Medvedev

Source: Alamy Image Bank

But they will not be able to play under the respective flags of their countries.

“A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness was felt throughout the tennis community following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week,” said a joint statement from the ATP, WTA. , the ITF and the organizers of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. .

Several top Russian tennis players have spoken out against the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s top-ranked player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has joined men’s tennis number six Andrey Rublev in criticizing the war.

“Stop the war, stop the violence,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

“Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence. This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children.

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Russia are Davis Cup holders but will not be able to defend their title later this year after being banned by the ITF from their team competitions.

Professional cycling teams and national teams from Russia and Belarus have also been banned by the UCI.

But individual runners who race for teams based in other countries will be able to continue to compete.

Russia also lost the right to host the men’s volleyball world championships in August and September.

– ‘Give birth to life’ –

This follows UEFA depriving Saint Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final – European football’s premier club competition – and Formula 1 canceling the Russian Grand Prix last Friday. .

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) followed its fellow federations with a blanket ban on athletes, saying it had “strengthened its measures”. Just hours before it initially canceled BWF-sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus.

Swimming has also offered sanctuary to swimmers from Russia and Belarus, as governing body FINA has stopped banning them.

“Russian or Belarusian nationals, whether as individuals or teams, should only be accepted as neutral athletes or neutral teams,” FINA said in a statement.

The Ukrainians will, despite the difficulties encountered during their travels, be present at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing.

“The Ukrainian national team will fly in full for the Paralympic Games,” the Ukrainian federation said in a tweet.

Additional reports by – ©AFP 2022

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