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Ukrainian tennis player Oleg Prihodko has condemned the ban of Russian and Belarusian players from events and is playing doubles with a Russian partner.
Last year Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing at the All England Club and other UK events due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The likes of Daniil Medvedev and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka slammed the decision last summer and both the ATP and WTA were also unhappy with the call.
As a result, the Lawn Tennis Association was fined £1.4m by the organisations and stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points as a result. But the Ukrainian player, ranked 121st in the doubles, is one of the few athletes from his country to publicly oppose Russian athletes getting suspended or banned from professional competition.
Soon after President Putin declared war in Ukraine over a year ago, Prihodko continued playing alongside his double partner and Russian friend Yan Bondarevsky, despite being advised to end their partnership. “I played a couple (of tournaments) with a Russian because he is my friend. And I played a couple with my friend – nationality does not matter to me,” he told BTU.
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“In my opinion, a person should be judged by his actions, and not by his nationality. I have many friends from Russia and Belarus, also my girlfriend is from Russia. They all help me in every possible way and always speak out against the war. Therefore, I do not think that I did some kind of terrible act.
“Were there recommendations from the FTU (Ukraine’s national tennis federation) not to play with the Russians? Yes, they did, but since I have my own views, I did as I saw fit, and I did not blindly follow the policy of the party.”
Prihodko’s views differ to that of some of his compatriots such as Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk, who have both previously called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the 2024 Paris Olympics. Ukraine’s second-highest-ranked doubles player thinks preventing those athletes from participating in sporting events would only serve as a reason to fuel more violence.
“In general, I believe that such condemnation of athletes only fuels the conflict more “ he added. “Thus, athletes begin to arrange war on and off the court, turning into tools of war and forgetting the basic principle of sport.” Prihodko commented on the debate.
“Regarding the removal of athletes from Belarus and Russia from the Olympics, I, as an athlete, do not understand this. I understand that for all the guys this is a dream to which they have been going all their lives. I believe that sport should bring people together. In ancient times, when the Olympics were held, all wars were stopped, but now it is part of the war.”
The Times reported last week that both the ATP and WTA stated their intention to cancel the LTA’s membership if it exercises further “discrimination based on nationality” and ban Russian and Belarusian players for another year. This means traditional tournaments staged at The Queen’s Club, Eastbourne and elsewhere in the run-up to Wimbledon could be removed from the tennis calendar.
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