Ukrainian former tennis star Alexandr Dolgopolov has accused sports chiefs of being “too passive,” calling on them to ban Russian players from participating in international competitions.
While numerous sports federations have suspended Russian athletes and teams following an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and both the ATP men’s and WTA women’s tours are allowing players such as world number one Daniil Medvedev to compete as neutrals.
But according to Dolgopolov, who has signed up for Ukraine’s territorial defense unit, this is “not changing anything” as “letting them play just by saying a few words” that they are against Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is not enough in his view.
While Medvedev has said he is “all for peace” and another Russian, world number seven Andrey Rublev, signed a camera lens with “no war please” at the recent Dubai Open, Dolgopolov claims there has been a lack of action taken by tennis bosses.
“I know all those guys personally,” the 33-year-old told BBC Sport.
“I even played Daniil when I was playing. They are nice guys but no offense to them – I believe Russia should be blocked from anyin any sport, in any culture,” Dolgopolov stated.
“I think every Russian is responsible for their government and their president,” the ex-world number 13 went on.
“Just being neutral, taking away their flag, we know that is not changing anything.
“And even the sanctions that are happening now, even the destroyed economics it is not enough for [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to stop,” Dolgopolov claimed.
“I already said this to them that I think tennis is being too passive,” he claimed of a chat with an ATP representative.
“I think it is not enough to say ‘we are against war’. We hear ‘we’re against war’ everywhere, in Miss Universe, in the Oscars. Yeah, that’s great, but they don’t ask the children or the women here any questions,” Dolgopolov added.
Even if the ATP continues to allow him to compete as a neutral though, Medvedev might not get the chance to appear at Wimbledon this summer after British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston suggested Russian athletes would have to denounce Putin to be allowed in.
“Absolutely nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed or enabled,” Huddleston said this week, revealing that he is currently holding discussions with the Grand Slam tournament’s organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC).
“We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to try and get some assurances along those lines,” Huddleston added.
However, WTA head Steve Simon has said he doesn’t wish to see players banned for not publicly criticizing their leaders or their decisions.
“You never know what the future may bring,” Simon said to the BBC.
“But I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.
“So it would take something very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going,” Simon went on.
While Russian athletes can compete individually under neutral status on the ATP and WTA tours, the ITF has already stripped Russia of the right to defend its international titles at the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup tournaments this year.