IOC chief Thomas Bach hits out at Wimbledon’s government-led ban of Russian and Belarusian players

Daniil Medvedev in front of Wimbledon logo

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has criticised the All England Tennis Club’s (AELTC) decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon, saying they will be “lost” if they allow governments to get involved in sport.

On the back of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine in February, the ATP, WTA and ITF opted to allow players from Russia and Belarus to continue plying their trade as individuals on the respective circuits. They were also able to compete at them recently completed French Open.

However, AELTC and the Lawn Tennis Association opted for a stronger stance as they banned players from competing in all grass-court events in the United Kingdom following advice from the British government.

It means the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka won’t compete at Wimbledon, but the move was criticised and ATP and WTA have hit back by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points.

IOC chief Bach, though, denounced the decision by AELTC.

“We need the respect of the Governments for our role,” he said during an address of the ASOIF General Assembly in Lausanne.

“Look at our friends from tennis, in Paris, Russian players can play as neutral athletes, in London, at Wimbledon, the Government is saying no way, and if we allow this, if we give into this, then we are lost.

“How can you guarantee then, in your sport a fair international competition, if the Governments are deciding according to their own political interests, who can take part in a competition and who cannot take part?

“Then, If you open this gate, today, it is Russia and Belarus, tomorrow it is your country, there is no country in the world which is loved by every other Government.

“This is against all the principles we are standing for, if we leave this to the Governments then we are becoming a political tool and we cannot guarantee any more, a fair competition, our task is that we have to realise that we have to get back to the day when we can unite the entire world in a peaceful competition, this is not the day, but we can only hope that peace prevails.”