Russian gymnast banned for wearing pro-war Z symbol on podium


The Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been banned for a year for wearing the Z symbol, a sign of support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, on the podium after the invasion.

Kuliak came third at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha in March and affixed the symbol to his shirt while accepting his medal.

The winner standing next to him was Illia Kovtun, a Ukrainian.

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The letter Z has come to be associated with support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and has been daubed on the side of tanks and weapons.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) investigated the incident and the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) sanctioned the 20-year-old for violating FIG rules.

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Kuliak is not allowed to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organised by an affiliated FIG member federation for 12 months.

He must also return his bronze medal and repay his prize money of 500 Swiss francs (£403) and pay a contribution of the costs of the proceedings of 2,000 Swiss francs (£1,612).

No violation of FIG rules was established against the head of the Russian delegation, Valentina Rodionenko, and coach Igor Kalabushkin.

The letter Z has been daubed on Russian tanks and equipment

Kuliak was widely condemned for wearing the symbol, with the FIG calling it “shocking behaviour”.

He remained defiant in the face of a ban from the sport, telling Russian state media days after the incident: “If there was a second chance and I had a choice whether to go out with the letter Z on my chest or not, I would do the same.

“I saw it on our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out to be ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’. I just wanted to show my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and play for peace.”

Russians athletes have since been banned from competing in many international sporting competitions, including Wimbledon this summer.


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