Paris - International tennis chief Francesco Ricci Bitti has flatly denied saying he saw no problems with Crimean players turning out for Russia.
The ITF president caused a stir in the tennis community when reportedly telling ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday that "Crimea is a part of Russia.
"Crimean tennis players can without any problems play for Russia's national teams and represent the country at any tournaments. I do not see a problem here."
But in a statement on Thursday he sought to distance himself from those comments.
"I refute the quotes attributed to me by ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday," he declared.
"Tennis is an individual sport and a Crimean player is free to represent any country for which he or she holds a passport.
"ITF team competitions have additional eligibility rules clearly laid out in the regulations. I believe that sport cannot disregard the political environment but should not be used for political purposes."
Last year Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine with a disputed referendum on March 16, 2014 showing more than 97 percent of Crimeans in favour of joining Russia.
The ITAR-TASS quotes sparked an attack on Ricci Bitti by top Ukraine player Sergiy Stakhovsky.
"Looks like Ricci-Bitti lost his moral judgment. I hope that @ITF_Tennis will apologize for his nonsense commentary regarding #Crimea," he tweeted.