A recent meeting seemingly bought forward the requirement for Russian and Belarussian athletes to provide assurances of neutrality in order to compete at Wimbledon.
In response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support of Russia, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) ruled that Russian and Belarusian athletes must compete as ‘neutral athletes,’ with no insignia or reference to their home nations.
Despite this measure being implemented, it is still weaker than numerous other sports and as such many have criticised the decision.
With some sports opting for outright bans, calls for tennis’ governing bodies to adopt the same measure have grown considerably the longer the war has drawn on.
One major tournament that could implement a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes is Wimbledon after Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston MP suggested players should “provide assurances of neutrality” in order to compete.
Although, whichever decision tennis’ authorities take will likely be met with heavy criticism.
Ukrainian former World number 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov, who enlisted in his country’s military reserves, recently said that banning Russian and Belarusian athletes “is the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Australian icon Todd Woodbridge urged caution and said implementing a ban would be “slippery and dangerous ground.”
Offering an update to the Wimbledon situation, Nigel Huddleston MP said “I have had a good meeting with various governing bodies about what we are doing in terms of sanctions and bans for individual athletes.
“We did make the request to governing bodies relating to individual sports people that if they [Russians or Belarusians] wish to participate in a United Kingdom sport, they are independent and neutral – and genuinely so.
“We wish to get the assurance of that in a written declaration that they are not receiving money from Putin, Russia or Belarus. That they will not be making supportive comments of Putin, Russia or Belarus.
“We are requesting governing bodies or individual events seek that assurance in advance if they are going to allow neutrals to play.
“If people are saying they are ‘neutral athletes,’ we want the assurance that they are genuinely neutral and therefore there isn’t any connection with Putin.
“If some individual sports or entities choose to do an outright ban of Russian or Belarusian athletes, then we will support that as well.
“But if they chose to go down the neutral route, then we are requesting they get that assurance.”