Russian & Belarusian Athletes Banned from Prague Tennis Tournament

July 28, 2023

A new government resolution in the Czech Republic has banned athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing as a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournament is set to kick off in Prague. 

Czech police stopped a Russian tennis player from entering the country Friday ahead of the Prague Open. Among the international players, a hanndful of Russian and Belarusian athletes, including Evgeniya Rodina of Russia or Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, were set to compete as “neutrals” without any national flag or symbol. 

However, a government resolution passed in June has banned athletes from those two countries from competing in events on Czech territory. The same legislation allows police to revoke their visas. 

Tournament director Miroslav Maly further said that police had stopped one would-be participant in the Prague Open from entering the country on Thursday, adding that organizers had informed other Russian and Belarusian nationals not to travel for the tournament after that incident.

The Czech ban on the foreign nationals comes as the International Olympic Committee is apparently only allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris under neutral banners, declining to give those two countries formal invitations to the games.

In a Q&A statement released Friday, the IOC announced that Russia and Belarus were not on the list of 203 countries authorized to participate in the Paris Olympics.

At least 35 countries including the U.S. and France had earlier this year joined in calling for Russia and Belarus to be banned from the Paris Olympic Games next year.

The athletic bans were called for in protest of Russia’s continued war against Ukraine, amid which Belarus is Russia’s closest ally. 

In Friday’s Q&A statement an Olympic Committee representative said, “The IOC’s position is clear: We condemned the war from the first day. We imposed unprecedented sanctions on the Russian and Belarusian governments.”

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