Ivan Kuliak: Russian gymnast given one-year ban for wearing pro-war Z symbol

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Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been given a one-year ban for displaying the Z symbol on his uniform in support of the invasion of Ukraine.

Kuliak had taped the letter to his vest instead of his country’s flag for a medal ceremony at a World Cup event in Qatar in March.

The 20-year-old had been standing on the podium in Dohar next to Ukrainian gold medallist Illia Kovtun.

The Z symbol has come to represent Russian propaganda and aggression against Ukraine and has regularly been seen on Russian tanks and military vehicles.

The disciplinary commission of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) found that Kuliak breached federation discipline, ethics, code of conduct and technical regulations “when he wore the letter ‘Z’ on his singlet during the competition and the award ceremony”.

Along with the suspension, Kuliak must return the bronze medal and 500 Swiss francs (€477) prize money he won in the parallel bars event, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said in a statement.

He has also been told to pay 2,000 Swiss francs (€1,908) to contribute to the costs of the proceedings.

Kuliak — a former national junior all-around champion who did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics — can appeal within 21 days.

The panel did not take any action against Russian delegation leader Valentina Rodionenko or Kuliak’s coach Igor Kalabushkin.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the FIG decided to ban Russians and Belarussians from all competitions.

“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 federation’s disciplinary commission said in its ruling.

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