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Russian gymnast Kuliak banned for one year over ‘Z’ display

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The gymnast displayed the letter 'Z' a symbol of support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine during an event

Russian artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been handed a one-year ban for displaying the letter ‘Z’ on his outfit during an event in Qatar in March, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said.

The 20-year-old, who won bronze in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, displayed the letter as he stood on the podium next to Ukrainian gold medallist Illia Kovtun. Read full story

Russian forces have used the letter “Z” as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”. Some supporters of the invasion have also used the sign.

“Mr Kuliak breached the FIG Statutes, the FIG Code of Discipline, the FIG Code of Ethics, the FIG Code of Conduct and the FIG Technical Regulations when he wore the letter ‘Z’ on his singlet,” the governing body said in a statement on Tuesday.

“He 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.”

Kuliak has said he had no regrets about the display and that he would always stand for peace.

“I saw it with our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out (it means), ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’,” he added.

“I didn’t wish anything bad on anyone, I just showed my position.”

Kuliak has also been stripped of his bronze medal and will have to return the prize money of 500 Swiss francs ($502.87). He has 21 days to appeal the decision.

The FIG had already banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in future events. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

“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 measure,” the FIG added.

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