IOC wants answers in Williams row

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Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The International Olympic Committee is to seek an explanation from Russian member Shamil Tarpischev for his derogatory comments about Serena and Venus Williams.

Tarpischev, who is president of the Russian Tennis Federation and captain of their Davis and Fed Cup teams, has been widely condemned for calling Serena and Venus “the Williams brothers” on a Russian TV chat show, with Serena describing his comments as “sexist, racist and bullying” on Sunday.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) reacted swiftly, fining Tarpischev the maximum of 25,000 US dollars and banning him from any involvement with the WTA for a year.

The IOC has yet to decide whether to impose any sanction of its own, with a spokesman telling Press Association Sport: ” The IOC will directly contact Mr Tarpischev to ask him for a full explanation of his comments.”

Tarpischev, 66, has been a member of the IOC since 1994.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, world number one Williams said: “I thought (the comments) were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying.

“The WTA and the USTA (United States Tennis Association) did a wonderful job of making sure that – in this day and age, 2014 – for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”

Tarpischev was also criticised by Russia’s highest-profile player, Maria Sharapova.

The French Open champion said: “I think (the comments) were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA.

“It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has, not just in this sport, but being part of the Olympic Committee.”

The WTA published a letter of apology from Tarpischev, who insisted the comments were intended as a joke.

He wrote: “I realise now that what I said was inappropriate in any context.

“I have the greatest admiration for the Williams sisters, who are among the greatest athletes ever to compete in our sport.

“My support for women’s tennis over the years should be obvious given the number of women players who have received support from the Russian Tennis Federation and the annual Kremlin Cup tournament.

“However, I understand now that my remarks were wrong and could be construed as discriminatory by the public. That was not my intention but I recognise that I need to make a full apology to the tennis family and especially to the Williams sisters.”

Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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