THE thing about elite sport, particularly an individual sport, is that so much of it is in an athlete’s own hands.

How hard they train, what their schedule is, how they behave and who is in their support team is almost entirely down to themselves.

However, for some last week, a huge moment in their career has been removed from their control.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club are hardly renown for being controversial but they have now opened up a whole can of worms.

The announcement that all Russian and Belarusian players will be banned from Wimbledon this summer has resonated through the sporting world, and beyond.

The reasoning behind the decision to exclude all players from these two countries due to the war in Ukraine is hard to decipher. The stated justification is that while Russia and Belarus wage war on an innocent country, representatives of those nations are not welcome.

But this is a decision that has little logic behind it. Despite many pleading to keep sport and politics apart, sport has taken a relatively strong stance against this war.

Countless sports have made moves to show their support for Ukraine and disgust with Russia. Russian football clubs and national teams have been suspended from all competitions and Spartak Moscow were thrown out of the Europa League; the Russian and Belarusian national rugby teams have been suspended from all international competition; cycling has suspended Russian and Belarusian national teams as well as any Russian-owned pro teams.

As for individual sports, athletics, rowing and badminton are among those to have issued outright bans to all Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Until last week, tennis had done what many other sports had settled on, prohibiting the use of the Russian and Belarusian flag but still allowing these athletes to compete under a neutral banner.

Wimbledon, however, has decided to take things further, meaning the likes of men’s world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, world No.8 Andrey Rublev and women’s world No.4 Aryna Sabalenka are banned from playing the tournament this year.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club issued a statement saying: “In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players.”

Certainly, there is something  unpalatable about seeing Russian athletes competing on the world stage, in glamorous locations, earning millions of dollars when we all know what their country is doing.

But it is hard to see quite what the point of this outright ban is. Someone like Medvedev has not lived in Russia for years and Rublev was quick to voice his disapproval of the war, writing “no war please” on a camera lens in February, shortly after the war began.

Yet these players are being punished for the actions of their government.

Certainly, sport plays a significant, perhaps even disproportionate role in global matters. Russia has used sportswashing continuously as a means of trying to improve its standing on the world stage, with the football World Cup and Winter Olympics just two of the events they have hosted in recent years.

So let’s not pretend sport has acted flawlessly when it comes to having dealt with Russia over the past decade. Russia has been allowed to sit at the top table purely due to the money they throw at these events.

If there was a suggestion this ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes would make the slightest bit of difference, I’d be all for it. I think most people would.

But punishing individual Russians for the actions of Vladimir Putin is futile; few suggest this kind of pressure will achieve the goal of ending the war.

Wimbledon has said there is still scope for the decision to be reversed if things change.

But, as things stand, the end result is likely to be nothing more than a draconian ban on a few select individuals that ultimately changes very little.


Comebacks in sport are a ridiculously common occurrence; occasionally they turn out beautifully but more often than not, they end up being a damp squib or, worse, a disaster.

Former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton’s return has all the makings of the latter.

A few days ago, 43-year-old Hatton revealed he will be back in the ring for a charity match in July because he needs “a reason to get out of bed every day”.

This is a commonly cited rationale and highlights just how hard athletes find walking away from their career.

Hatton has suffered from well-documented battles with depression and if a comeback is the best way for him to fend off those issues, good luck to him.

But of all the sports to return to, boxing is one of the most dangerous. There is no way to coast through a boxing comeback; rather, every fighter knows their life is potentially on the line when they step into the ring.

Perhaps Hatton will be one of those select few for whom a comeback is a success.

The odds are against it though.