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8 Jun, 2022 10:37

Russian gymnast launches appeal after Z symbol ban

Ivan Kuliak was slapped with a one-year suspension for his gesture
Russian gymnast launches appeal after Z symbol ban

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has launched a bid to overturn the one-year ban handed to him after he displayed a ‘Z’ symbol at an event in Qatar earlier this year.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced last month that Kuliak, 20, would be barred from its events and stripped of the bronze medal he earned in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha back in March.

Kuliak had appeared on the podium for the competition – which was won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun – with a ‘Z’ attached to his leotard.

The symbol is used by Russian forces during the military campaign in Ukraine and has been adopted by Russians as a show of support for their troops.

Kuliak later said he did not regret the gesture and argued he and the Russian team had faced provocation from their Ukrainian rivals.

Kuliak was given 21 days to appeal the suspension by the Disciplinary Commission of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) – a step which Russian Gymnastics Federation president Vasily Titov confirmed on Wednesday that he has taken.

“Kuliak has filed an appeal with the Gymnastic Ethics Foundation Appeals Tribunal against the decision of the Disciplinary Commission to disqualify him for one year,” said Titov, according to TASS.

In addition to his ban, Kuliak was fined 500 Swiss francs (around $500) and ordered to pay 2,000 Swiss francs towards the costs of the proceedings in the case.

The youngster is barred from competing in any event sanctioned by the FIG or competitions organized by affiliated member federations.

All Russian and Belarusian athletes have already been banned from FIG events for an indefinite period due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The FIG said that if those measures are still in force on May 17, 2023, then Kuliak’s ban will continue and only expire six months after the removal of the sanctions.

Russian coaches Valentina Rodionenko and Igor Kalabushkin – who were also at the event in Doha – were cleared of any violations by gymnastics bosses

Like Kuliak, veteran trainer Rodionenko said the Russian team had faced provocations from their Ukrainian counterparts.

“I approached the FIG representative and asked why the Ukrainians behaved like that, to which he replied that he could do nothing about it,” Rodionenko said in the aftermath of the row.

After Kuliak’s punishment was announced in May, Rodionenko vowed that the youngster would not quit the sport but would use the time to train and improve his routines.

“Everything will be fine, this situation will not break him, he will return,” said the coach.

Kuliak is not the only Russian athlete to be sanctioned for allegedly making gestures in support of the military operation in Ukraine.

Double Olympic gold medal swimmer Evgeny Rylov was punished with a nine-month ban by FINA after he appeared at a Moscow concert marking the reunification of Russia and Crimea, also wearing a ‘Z’ symbol attached to his jacket.

Commenting on the case, Russian President Vladimir Putin later described it as “absurd.”

“The International Swimming Federation suspended Evgeny Rylov for nine months for attending a concert in honor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia.

“Such approaches remain a problem for sport. All this is obvious to Russia,” said Putin.  

In chess, Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin was banned for six months by governing body FIDE for his vocal support of President Putin and the military campaign in Ukraine.  

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