Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak suspended for a year after wearing pro-war symbol on the podium


The 20-year-old wore a ‘Z’ symbol plastered to his leotard as he stood next to Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun on a podium in March – Kovtun won gold and Kuliak took bronze on parallel bars at the Gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar.

The “Z” insignia was displayed on tanks and vehicles used by the Russian military and became a symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) criticized Kuliak for his “shocking behaviour” and the athlete has now been sanctioned by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) Disciplinary Commission for breaking FIG rules.

The GEF ruled that Kuliak was banned from any FIG-affiliated event for 12 months and had to return his bronze medal.

“If 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 the removal of said measures,” the statement added.

Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, are not allowed to participate in official FIG-sanctioned competitions on the advice of the International Olympic Committee amid the invasion.

Kuliak must also repay the prize money of $501.77 and pay $2,007 for litigation costs.

The gymnast has 21 days to appeal the decision.

CNN has contacted the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation (FSGR) regarding any possible appeal, but has not received a response.

Amid criticism, Kuliak said he would “do the exact same thing” if given another chance, according to Russian state media at the time.

“I saw it with our military and looked up what that symbol meant. It turned out [it means]’for victory’ and ‘for peace’,” Kuliak reportedly told Russian-controlled outlet Russia Today.

“I didn’t wish anything bad on anyone, I just showed my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and defend peace.”


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