British tennis officials said on Wednesday they were “disappointed” that the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) fined them $1 million for banning Russian and Belarusian players from their events.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
Russian and Belarusian players were eventually banned from all five LTA organized ATP tournaments, including the long-running Queen’s Club event in London.
The All England Club that organizes Wimbledon also banned them from the oldest tennis tournament of the year.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association stripped Wimbledon of ranking points in protest at the ban, which 21-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic called “crazy”.
The WTA had also previously fined British tennis authorities a total of $1 million, split between a $750,000 penalty for the LTA and a $250,000 fine for the All England Club.
It is also known that LTA was threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if he repeated the ban.
The LTA, responding Wednesday to the latest sanctions, accused the ATP of “lack of empathy” for the situation in Ukraine, saying in a statement: “The LTA is deeply disappointed by this outcome.
“The ATP, in its opinion, did not demonstrate a lack of recognition of the exceptional circumstances resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or the response of the international sporting community and the UK government to this invasion.
“ATP appears to be treating this matter as a direct violation of its rules – with a surprising lack of sympathy for the situation in Ukraine and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances faced by the LTA.”
The statement added: “We will carefully consider our response and await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA decision and sanctions.”
– “No discrimination” –
Later Wednesday, ATP officials said they did not intend to change course.
“We stand by our original position on the matter that unilateral decision-making by ATP Tour participants threatens our ability to operate as a global sport,” an AFP spokesman said.
“We believe the measures taken protect the long-term future of our game and its commitment to merit-based participation without discrimination for individual athletes.”
Earlier, the Asia-Pacific region received the support of the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, who criticized the UK government for politicizing the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
“Governments should not decide for political reasons who participates in which sporting events,” Bach said after a meeting of the IOC Executive Board in Lausanne.
“Qualification for sporting events should be based on sporting merit, not political meddling.”
Bach also accused the British government and others of violating the Olympic Charter, the guarantor of the political neutrality of the IOC.
“Making a decision, a political decision on a sporting event is clearly not in line with these resolutions and these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sport,” he said.
Michelle Donelan, British government minister of culture, called on the ATP and WTA to reconsider their penalties.
“We understand that sport cannot be used to legitimize this deadly invasion and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian state should be banned from competing in other countries,” she said.
“Despite widespread condemnation, international tennis tours are considered pariahs on this issue, causing investment in the development of our domestic game to be held back.”
jdg / dj