France announced on Thursday that if veteran point guard Thomas Heurtel played for Zenit St. Petersburg, he would be removed from the national squad.
The Russian club announced on Wednesday that they have signed the 33-year-old for one season, with an additional season being a possibility.
On Thursday, the French basketball federation (FFBB) issued a statement saying that Heurtel would be unable to play for the France squad “for upcoming international competitions, including the 2024 Olympic Games” if he continued to play for Zenit.
Heurtel was a member of the French team that was defeated by Spain in Sunday’s Eurobasket championship game. He also won a silver medal at the Olympics and a gold medal at the Eurobasket.
After just one tumultuous year with Real Madrid, he was a free agent. Real temporarily benched him for disciplinary grounds, so he missed the season’s final few games. In 2021, he had a similarly unsuccessful tenure in Spain, this time at Barcelona.
The FFBB agreed in July not to pick players signed to Russian or Belarusian clubs until the end of the war in Ukraine, following the moves of two additional French internationals, Livio Jean-Charles to CSKA Moscow and Louis Labeyrie to Kazan.
The federation stated that all of the selected players for Eurobasket signed a form “saying that he was not signed to and that he did not plan to sign with a Russian or Belarusian team.” Heurtel was one of those players.
According to the FFBB, they “were notified that Thomas Heurtel had contacts with international clubs, notably Russian,” but they were never informed that a contract had been signed or was being signed with a Russian club.
The FFBB has confirmed to AFP that Heurtel will not be reinstated for the 2024 Olympics in Paris or the 2023 World Cup in Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines, even if he only plays one season in Russia.
The Russian national basketball team and all Russian and Belarusian clubs have been barred from participating in Eurobasket.