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Ivan Kuliak: Russian gymnast who wore pro-war symbol on podium in Qatar banned for one year

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak was banned for a year by a disciplinary committee for displaying a symbol supporting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on the medal podium in Doha in March.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) which was investigating the incident said Kuliak broke the rules by wearing the “Z” badge and was banned from FIG-sanctioned events until at least May 17, 2023.

Kuliak, who is an artistic gymnast, won a bronze medal at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha. The 20-year-old was seen sporting the letter ‘Z’ on his chest as he stepped onto the podium to receive his medal in an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun.

The letter has become a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after it was seen scrawled on Russian tanks and military vehicles carrying out what Vladimir Putin called a “military operation”. War has been raging in the European country for 84 days now.

Kuliak must now return the bronze medal he won after being disqualified for his stunt at the World Cup. He will also have to return his prize money of 500 Swiss francs (£403) and contribute to the costs of the proceedings to the tune of 2,000 Swiss francs (£1,612), the FIG said in a statement.

Kuliak has the right to appeal the decision within 21 days.

The federation said: “Mr. Kuliak is not permitted to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organized by any FIG-affiliated Member Federation for one year from the date of this decision.”

“While the protective measures preventing Russian athletes from competing are still in place on May 17, 2023, the ban will continue and expire six months after said measures are removed.”

The Russian gymnast did not apologize for his stunt during the investigation. In an interview at Russia today in March, he said, “If there was a second chance and I had the choice of going out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do the same.

“I saw it on our military and looked up 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 I will play for peace.

The federation confirmed that no violation of the FIG rules had been found against the head of the Russian delegation, Valentina Rodionenko, and coach Igor Kalabushkin.

The FIG will pay 1,000 Swiss francs each to Ms. Rodionenko and Mr. Kalabushkin as well as a contribution to the procedural costs of 4,000 Swiss francs.

The FIG previously announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials would be banned from international events from March 7 until further notice, in line with global sports sanctions against Moscow.

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