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A Russian Gymnast Who Uses the ‘z’ Symbol on the Podium Next to a Ukrainian Faces a Lengthy Suspension.
The Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak, who now faces a lengthy ban for wearing a symbol supporting the invasion of Ukraine on the medal podium of a World Cup event, has been slammed by the sport’s regulatory body for his “awful behavior.”
Kulak glued the letter “Z” to the front of his costume after earning bronze in the parallel bars final at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, before standing next to gold medalist Illia Kovtun of Ukraine for the national anthems.
The “Z,” a character that does not exist in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet, is seen daubed on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine and has come to symbolize support for President Vladimir Putin and the invasion.
The Russian flag had previously been outlawed by the International Gymnastics Federation, so Kuliak, 20, was unable to wear it (FIG).
The FIG said in a statement that “after his stunning behavior,” it would ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary procedures against Kulak.
When asked about possible penalties against Russia, the FIG pointed the Guardian to article 42.3 of its 2022 statutes, which deals with “disciplinary measures that can be imposed amongst others on a Federation, a legal entity, or an individual.”
Such measures include “the revocation of a competition’s results,” which might result in Kuliak losing his bronze medal, and “the proscription to participate in FIG competitions and other international events for one specific or unspecified duration” – in other words, a possible long suspension.
Ukraine’s 2016 Olympic parallel bars champion Oleg Verniaiev slammed Kuliak’s remarks on Instagram, writing: “Of course, you will excuse me, but let the Russians not proclaim that sport is out of politics!” “Congratulations to our guy; everything is in order; Ukraine, glory!”
Kulak isn’t the only Russian gymnast to openly support Putin’s Ukraine war. Svetlana Khorkina, who won seven Olympic gold from 1996 to 2004, posted the “Z” symbol online last week with the statement “A campaign for people who are not ashamed to be Russian.”
Meanwhile, Sergey Karjakin, a former world champion chess challenger, has been barred from competing in several important tournaments, including the Grand Chess Tour, after making repeated strong comments in support of the invasion.
All Russian and Belarusian gymnasts, officials, and judges have been barred from competing in any future FIG-sanctioned competitions as of Monday. The FIG said it considered the IOC’s newest recommendations, the stance of its athletes’ committee, and the “deep concerns” and opinions expressed by many national gymnastics federations in making its decision.
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Russia’s invasion was widely condemned around the world, resulting in the emigration of more than 1.5 million Ukrainians and the imposition of broad Western-led sanctions aimed at damaging the Russian economy. Eight civilians were murdered outside of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, on Sunday when Russian soldiers shelled a bridge as they attempted to flee to safety.