Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko has reportedly been punished by the government of her home country solely for competing in tournaments that allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian players. The news seems so unbelievable that I hope it is fake information, but more and more sources are sharing the story and the former Roland Garros champion is said not to be the only Latvian athlete affected.
The Latvian Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Education and Science have decided to stop funding their country’s athletes who have participated at competitions that allow the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus. The financial impact on Jelena Ostapenko will definitely be minuscule, but lower-ranked Latvian players such Daniela Vismane and Darja Semenistaja will suffer. Other prominent names affected by this financial cutoff include cyclists Toms Skujins and Krists Neilands.
Even though the state funding was a small amount to Ostapenko, who has earned over $12 million in her career, it is an unreasonable punishment by Latvia to the player who helped put the country on the world map, at least when it comes to tennis.
The news was supposedly first reported by Sputnik. Hopefully it’s a false alarm. As a poster on Tennis Forum wrote: “I have lost half of my IQ after reading the news.” I can relate.
UPDATE 1: Jelena Ostapenko commented on this topic to our representative at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday.
The 25-year-old said: “Of course they have reached out, but honestly there is really nothing to do because I’m not organizing tournaments. The WTA is the one who is organizing tournaments and I don’t have any opportunities to play in any other tournaments.”
Referring to the reported policies, she said “It means if I don’t play any other tournaments, I have to quit tennis. But I’m not gonna do that because I’m a tennis player and this is my sport. I mean, unfortunately, it’s like that.”
UPDATE 2: Latvia made a U-turn, abandoned the decision to stop funding Latvian athletes who compete alongside Russians and Belarusians.