The world's top-ranked tennis player, Daniil Medvedev, could be banned from playing at Wimbledon unless he offers "assurances" that he isn't a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Medvedev, along with other Russian and Belarusian tennis players, has been competing as a 'neutral athlete' at the BNP Paribas Open this week in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. But the UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston says this isn't enough, Eurosport reports.
Huddleston said Tuesday that the government is in talks with the All-England Lawn Tennis Club regarding their stance for Wimbledon (the tournament doesn't begin until June 27).
He added that "nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed" to play in the famous Grand Slam tournament. In fact, the ban should probably go "beyond that" and bar any Russians who refuse to denounce their president (something that could carry criminal penalties back in Russia). The Wimbledon organizers are reportedly having talks on the issue.
Tennis has so far stopped short of banning Russian players, however Russia have been banned from certain team competitions like the Davis Cup. Huddleston says the UK is looking at how to reach a "broad global consensus" with other countries about how Russian athletes should be treated.
"We are looking at this issue of what we do with individuals and we are thinking about the implications of it, because I don’t think people would accept individuals very clearly flying the Russian flag, in particular if there is any support for Putin and his regime."
Medvedev, who is set to lose the world No.1 ranking to Novak Djokovic after losing to Gael Monfils at Indian Wells, said that if he had his druthers, he would simply go on "promoting tennis" wherever he plays. As for the invasion of Ukraine, it's "tough to talk on", he said.
"It's always tough to talk on this subject because I want to play tennis - play in different countries."
"I want to promote my sport, I want to promote what I'm doing in my country for sure, and right now the situation is that that is the only way I can play."
Meanwhile, Huddleston, the UK sports minister, said he will do everything in his power to ensure that Russia will not return to the international sporting stage for the foreseeable future.