PARIS (AFP) – Russia continued to pay a heavy sporting price for its invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday, frozen out by a snowballing list of sports with perhaps the most painful blows coming from ice skating and athletics.
Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be allowed to continue competing on the WTA and ATP Tours and in Grand Slam tournaments, but their teams were suspended from the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
Russia, traditionally a powerhouse in figure skating ˗ they won six medals at the Beijing Olympics including two gold ˗ had their skaters barred from all competitions.
This rules them out of March’s world championships to be hosted in Montpellier, France.
Their track and field athletes, as well as those from Belarus, joined them in being barred from this year’s world championships — indoors and outdoors — later on Tuesday.
It was a decision not taken lightly, with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe describing it as “going against the grain” to punish athletes, “but sport has to step up”.
Belarusian athletes are being punished as the country is being condemned internationally for being used as a launchpad by Russian forces to attack neighboring Ukraine.
Both are significant 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 has hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi — although that was overshadowed by the state-sponsored doping scandal — and the 2018 men’s football World Cup.
On Monday, the governing bodies who oversee those sporting showpieces hit Russia hard.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.
Hours later, FIFA kicked Russia out of the 2022 World Cup as football’s global governing body and UEFA joined forces to expel Russian national teams and clubs from all international competitions.
– Tennis players escape ban –
Russian tennis players, including newly-crowned men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and Belarus’ women’s world number three Aryna Sabalenka, will be allowed to keep competing in major individual events.
But they will not be able to play under their countries’ respective flags.
“A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week,” said a joint statement from the ATP, WTA, ITF and the organisers of tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments.
Several high-profile tennis players from Russia have spoken out against the conflict in Ukraine.
Russia’s top-ranked women’s player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova joined men’s tennis number six Andrey Rublev in criticising 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.”
Russia are the Davis Cup holders but will not be able to defend their title later this year after being banned by the ITF from its team competitions.
Professional cycling teams and national teams from Russia and Belarus have also been suspended by the UCI.