Of all the sanctions that have been placed upon Russian and Belarusian athletes since Russia invaded Ukraine just over a year ago, one of the most contentious was the move by Wimbledon to ban players from those nations.

Going against the grain, Wimbledon, as well as the other grass court tournaments run by the LTA last summer, prohibited the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in a move that caused more than a few waves at the time and continues to cause significant disagreement.

There is, and remains, a massive conflict in sport about what should be done over this war. Support for Ukraine and condemnation for Russia is a given but thereafter, how stringent should sporting bodies be?

Even the most draconian bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes will not stop the war. Will it make even the smallest impact on the actions of Russia? It is doubtful.

But doing nothing has clearly not been an option either.

What most sporting bodies settled upon was to ban Russian and Belarusian national teams from competition but to allow individual athletes to compete under a neutral flag.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it is probably the best middle ground that can be achieved.

Few suggest that banning individual athletes was doing much more than punishing them for something they had no influence over and that many disagreed with.

As last summer approached, sport had not settled on the best response to the war and Wimbledon came out of the traps quickly with their ban. The move seemed a knee-jerk reaction.

There can be little doubt that much, if not all, of their decision was fuelled by the fear of the Duchess of Cambridge, at the time, having to hand the men’s or women’s winners’ trophy to a Russian or Belarusian.

The outright ban led to substantial fines from both the men’s and women’s governing bodies, the ATP and WTA, as well as the tournament being stripped of all ranking points.

And so, a year on, what was predicted by many has materialised. The war remains ongoing and this year’s tournament is fast approaching.

All the whispers suggest Wimbledon will rescind their ban, allowing Russians and Belarusians to play at the All England Club.

Should there be no change in position, the sanctions are likely to be severe, with the most drastic rumoured to be a withdrawal of the LTA’s membership meaning no grass court tournaments other than Wimbledon would take place in the UK this summer.

However, it appears a reversal of the ban will be officially announced within days.

The actions of Wimbledon has highlighted that as disgusted as some within sport may be about certain political decisions, the appetite is just not there to use sport as a tool to punish all individuals from an offending country.

It’s an impossible situation; sport is, it’s clear to see, used as a political tool despite constant protestations that politics and sport should remain separate.

But the past year has proven that for all the will there is to punish Vladimir Putin, doing it through the athletes of his country is not the way to do it.


There is a tendency to assume that as soon as an athlete, particularly a female athlete, hits 30, their best days are behind them

Certainly, it’s difficult as well as unusual to continue improving when you are on the wrong side of 30 and there is little doubt that physically, things often become that little bit more onerous.

However, if there is anyone proving that age is not a barrier to improvement it is Eilish McColgan, who has spent the past year winning medals and breaking records seemingly at will. It is something the 32-year-old never managed with such regularity throughout her 20s.

McColgan’s latest feat was to break Paula Radcliffe’s long-standing 10,000m British record; last weekend she took a whopping 19 seconds off her previous personal best and ran 48 seconds quicker than her gold medal-winning performance at last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

McColgan’s performances over the past year in particular have been a personal triumph but, perhaps even more importantly, she is helping bust the myth that athletic decline begins for women at 30.

McColgan is, by some distance it seems, a better athlete now than she has ever been.

Much of her improvement is down to avoiding injury, something she was plagued with in her early to mid 20s and something that, as all athletes know, is a far greater hindrance to improvement than age.

What is also interesting about McColgan is she is only now moving up to the marathon, with her debut at the distance coming at next month’s London Marathon and there is every chance that rather than merely trying desperately to maintain her form as her 30s progress, she is merely approaching her peak now.

Of course the age of female athletes shouldn’t be worth commenting on, but it remains a talking point and so for every woman who excels in their 30s, they are doing valuable work in reminding everyone that age is only a number.