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

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Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been handed a one-year ban by a disciplinary committee for sporting a symbol supporting Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on the medal podium in Doha in March.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) that was investigating the incident said Kuliak violated rules by wearing the insignia “Z” and has been banned from FIG-sanctioned events till at least 17 May 2023.

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

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

Kuliak now has to return the bronze medal he earned after he was disqualified for his stunt from the World Cup event. He will also 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 in a statement.

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

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 Russian gymnast has been unapologetic of his stunt during the investigation. In an interview to Russia Today in March, he had 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.”

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 Ms Rodionenko and Mr 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.

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