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Russian Gymnast Banned for One Year for Wearing Pro-War ‘Z’ Symbol


View of the damages caused by a missile strike in Zatoka village, Odesa region, Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, May 16, 2022.

A Russian artistic gymnast has been banned from competition for one year for displaying the letter "Z" -- a sign of support for Russia's war against Ukraine -- on his outfit during a competition in Qatar in March.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said in a statement dated May 17 that Ivan Kulyak, who won a bronze medal in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, "breached the FIG Statutes, the FIG Code of Discipline, the FIG Code of Ethics, the FIG Code of Conduct and the FIG Technical Regulations" by taping the "Z" symbol to his uniform while he stood on the podium next to Ukrainian gold medalist Illya Kovtun.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are marked with the letter "Z," and the symbol has begun appearing on social media and on clothing in support of the war, which began on February 24.

The FIG said Kulyak "is not allowed to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organized by an affiliated FIG member federation for one year as of the date of this decision."

Kulyak was also forced to return his bronze medal and ordered to pay back the prize money of 500 Swiss francs (almost $503). He also must make a contribution of 2,000 Swiss francs for the costs of the proceedings.

"If the protective measures keeping Russian athletes from competing are still in place on May 17, 2023, the ban shall continue and expire six months after the removal of said measures," the federation's disciplinary commission said in its ruling.

Kulyak has 21 days to appeal the decision.

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