Olympic champion’s ban is ‘Russophobia bordering on Nazism’ – politician
Olympic swimming champion Evgeny Rylov is a victim of “Russophobia bordering on Nazism” after he was banned for nine months for an appearance at a Moscow concert celebrating the reunification with Crimea, according to a politician in his homeland.
Swimming authorities FINA confirmed on Friday that Rylov would be suspended for nine months after he attended the mass meeting at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital last month.
Rylov, 25, was seen dressed in national team attire with a ‘Z’ written on his jacket – a symbol which is used as support for Russian forces amid the military operation in Ukraine.
The suspension imposed by FINA on the Tokyo Games double gold medalist has been met with anger and dismay among Russian officials.
“This decision needs to be challenged. Rylov expressed his civic position, and disqualification for this means violating all international rules,” said State Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev, who is chairman of the Committee on Physical Culture and Sports.
“FINA has joined the ranks of politicized federations that discriminate against Russian athletes for no reason. And such an attitude towards Rylov for his position and for his Russian passport is Russophobia bordering on Nazism,” he added.
Svishchev recalled the incident at the Tokyo Olympics last summer when Rylov’s beaten American rival Ryan Murphy appeared to suggest races with Russian athletes were “not clean,” before backtracking on the remarks.
“Maybe this is generally some kind of personal relationship to Rylov?” Svischev asked. “Remember how he was discriminated against and provoked at the Tokyo Olympics.
“The hysteria continues, and it is important for us to respond to it in a timely manner. It is necessary to protect our athletes, to challenge such illegal decisions. As far as I know, Rylov has 21 days to do this.”
Rylov and his legal representatives have confirmed they are considering an appeal against the suspension.
FINA has already banned all Russian and Belarusian athletes from its events until the end of the year, although Rylov’s coach said there is uncertainty over what the suspension imposed on him personally would entail for tournaments such as the Russian Championships.
Another figure to hit out at the FINA sanctions was figure skating icon Irina Rodnina.
“This is more stupidity. It seems to me that they are competing to see who will make the loudest statements,” the Duma deputy said.
“Any federation is run by people. Naturally, each person has his own views, there is pressure that is put on them.
“As you can see for yourself, they operate without rules. Absolutely. Once again, we are being shown that sport is part of their political ideas and views.”
Rylov was one of a number of athletes to appear the Luzhniki concert last month, which was also attended by President Vladimir Putin.
The event was partly held under the title ‘For a World Without Nazism’, and featured speeches from Putin and other officials, as well as performances from popular Russian musicians.
Rylov’s sponsors Speedo said they were ending their deal with the swimming hero after his appearance at the mass meeting.
Since Moscow launched its military offensive against Ukraine at the end of February, a host of global sporting federations have followed a call by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from all competitions.