Russian gymnast given one year ban after wearing war symbol on podium alongside Ukrainian
Russian gymnast wears Z symbol on his chest
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Ivan Kuliak was handed the punishment by a sporting disciplinary committee for wearing the symbol at a medal ceremony in Qatar in March. The International Gymnastics Federation said the gymnast violated the rules by wearing a political symbol at a sporting event and banned him until May 2023.
The athlete had been on the podium after scooping up the bronze medal for his performances in the field of artistic gymnastics.
Upon entering the podium area to collect his prize, he was seen sporting the letter “Z” on his chest.
The event was won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun who had been standing near Mr Kuliak at the time.
Since the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine, the letter Z sign has become synonymous with Russian military forces.
Painted on the front and sides of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and worn by Russian troops, the sign can be clearly seen across the military.
So popular is the sign, that Russia has seen many shops selling souvenir hats and t-shirts with the logo emblazoned on the front.
Following the move, Mr Kuliak must now return the medal to officials after he was disqualified for his political stunt.
The athlete will also have to return his prize money of £400 and contribute to the cost of the hearing, which is thought to be around £1,600.
The Russian gymnast now has 21 days to appeal the decision against him.
The federation said: “Mr Kuliak is not allowed to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organised by an affiliated FIG member federation for one year as of the date of this decision.”
“If the protective measures keeping Russian athletes from competing are still in place on 17 May 2023, the ban shall continue and expire six months after the removal of said measures.”
The athlete has shown no remorse for his actions.
In an interview with Russia Today in March, he said: “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.”
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An investigation was also held to ascertain if Russian coaches had committed any infringements during the event.
Following an examination of the evidence, both the head of the Russian delegation, Valentina Rodionenko, and coach Igor Kalabushkin were found not to be in breach of the rules.
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The FIG will now pay £800 each to Ms Rodionenko and Mr Kalabushkin as well as contribute to the costs of the proceedings equating to £3,230.
The FIG had previously announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials will be banned from international events from 7 March until further notice in line with global sporting sanctions against Moscow.
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