August 19, 2022

Ivan Kuliak has had to return his bronze medal and prize money

The Russian gymnast who supported his country’s invasion of Ukraine by wearing the insignia ‘Z’ on his vest at a world cup event, has been banned from the sport for a year.

Ivan Kuliak was disciplined on Tuesday by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for wearing the symbol during the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha in March where he finished third.

The federation said Kuliak, 20, violated rules by wearing the insignia and has been banned from FIG-sanctioned events till at least 17 May 2023.

Kuliak, who is an artistic gymnast, was seen displaying the symbol on his chest as he arrived on the podium to receive his medal in an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun.

The letter become symbolic early on during Russia’s invasion after it was seen ominously scrawled across tanks and military vehicles after the war began on February 24.

Kuliak has returned his medal and will have to return his prize money of 500 Swiss francs (£403) and contribute to the costs of the proceedings in the sum of 2,000 Swiss francs (£1,612), the FIG said.

Kuliak has 21 days to appeal the decision, the federation said.

FIG added in its statement: “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 Russian gymnast has been unapologetic about his stunt, telling Russia Today in March: “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.

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“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.”

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

FIG will pay 1,000 Swiss francs each to Rodionenko and Kalabushkin as well as contribution to the costs of the proceedings 4,000 Swiss francs.

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.

Read the International Gymnastics Federation statement here.

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