Olympic champ to sacrifice world championships in protest at ban on Russians
Beijing Olympic Games double champion Evgeny Rylov will not appear at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, the Russian has said in a move designed to show support for his compatriots who have been barred from the Paralympics and other major sporting competitions because of the attack on Ukraine.
The 25-year-old made the announcement on social media a day after it emerged that he had lost a sponsorship deal with Speedo because he appeared at an event featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.
"In support of the Russian Paralympic athletes, in support of all Russian athletes who have been suspended from international competitions, I refuse to go to the 2022 World Championships this summer," Rylov told his thousands of online fans in a statement issued "due to the current situation in the world".
"I believe that by losing competition, the development of sports is lost. No matter how sad it may sound, the sport cannot move without worthy competitors."
FINA, which runs the championships, is one of increasingly few major sporting organizations not to have barred Russian and Belarusian athletes after a directive from the International Olympic Committee [IOC] encouraging federations to take action.
The governing body has allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete under neutral status.
The national swimming federations of Poland and Switzerland have threatened to boycott the championships if representatives from the nations are allowed to take part, and their counterparts in Norway have said they will be forming a coalition of Scandinavian countries following suit.
The European Swimming League has said it will not be inviting athletes from the countries to its events in a ruling which is likely to include the European Championships in Munich in August.
The Russian Paralympic Committee headed to the Paralympic Games before the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided to impose a ban a day before the event started on March 4.
"Conclusions should be made by the federations about the direction in which they want to develop sports and whether [IOC founder] Pierre de Coubertin wanted to see [this] when he initiated the organization of the Olympic Games, which were supposed to unite people," said Rylov.
Putin has also claimed that De Coubertin's principles have been "distorted" by the international sporting bans.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of an alternative winter event to the Paralympics last week, the head of state called the exclusion of Russia and Belarus by the IPC the "height of cynicism".
Rylov lost his Speedo deal after attending a Moscow concert marking the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
The 100m and 200m backstroke winner at the Tokyo Games was part of an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 people who gathered at the Luzhniki Stadium on Friday.
Putin addressed the stadium under the banner ‘For a World without Nazism’, and Rylov joined his fellow athletes in wearing national team kit emblazoned with the letter ‘Z’.
The symbol which has been visible on Russian military equipment during the Ukraine conflict and has become synonymous with support for Russian forces.