Tunisia was suspended from the Davis Cup for a year on Saturday for preventing one of its tennis players from competing against an Israeli last month.
The International Tennis Federation ruled unanimously that the Tunisian Tennis Federation (TTF) was in breach of the ITF’s constitution.
Last month, the Tunisian federation ordered the country’s top player to withdraw from a match against an Israeli at a tournament in Uzbekistan.
Malek Jaziri, 29, had been scheduled to play Israel’s Amir Weintraub in the quarterfinals of an ATP Challenger tournament in Tashkent. Jaziri withdrew before the match, citing a knee injury, and Weintraub advanced to the semifinals of the lower-tier event.
The ITF said that it “not satisfied with the case put forward by the Tunisian Tennis Federation.”
“There is no room for prejudice of any kind in sport or in society,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, quoted by AFP.
“The ITF Board decided to send a strong message to the Tunisian Tennis Federation that this kind of action will not be tolerated by any of our members,” he added.
“The Board felt that suspension from Davis Cup, a competition that was founded 113 years ago to encourage better understanding through sport, would provide a good lesson for the Federation and a fitting penalty for their unfortunate action,” he concluded.
Assaf Tuchmeir, the head of Israel’s tennis association, praised the ITF’s decision as “wise” in its “clear statement that politics have no place in sports.”
“We hope [Tunisia] will internalize the message and return next year to the Davis Cup,” he said in a statement.
Last month, the TTF sent an e-mail to Jaziri before the match saying: “Following a meeting this afternoon with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, I have the immense regret to inform you that you are ordered not to play against the Israeli player.”
The email was provided to Tunisia’s state news agency by Jaziri’s brother, Amir.
Tunisian Sports Ministry spokesman Sadok Touati confirmed to The Associated Press that the federation sent the email after consulting the ministry. ”The ministry does not interfere in the affairs of the sports federations,” he said.
In an interview with a local radio station, Jaziri said he and his brother were afraid the decision could harm the player’s career. He is ranked 169th in the world.
Arab countries have for the past decades observed to varying degrees boycotts against Israeli athletes in protest over the Palestinian situation.