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14 Sep, 2022 10:31

Russian ‘Z’ gymnast learns if ban appeal successful

Ivan Kuliak protested his one-year suspension from the sport
Russian ‘Z’ gymnast learns if ban appeal successful

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak will remain banned from his sport after a hearing into his case concluded at the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) Appeal Tribunal, although the terms of his suspension have been altered.

Kuliak, 20, was banned from all International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) competitions for one year back in May, after taking to the podium at a World Cup event in Qatar earlier in the season with a ‘Z’ symbol attached to his leotard.

The sign is used by the Russian military during its operation in Ukraine and is used as a show of support by sections of the population at home.

The terms of Kuliak’s 12-month ban were complicated by the fact that all Russian gymnasts are currently suspended from FIG events due to the Ukraine conflict.

Kuliak’s initial punishment stated that if all Russian gymnasts remained banned at the time his personal suspension was due to expire, he would be required to serve an additional six-month ban from the moment broader FIG sanctions against Russia were lifted.

In a statement on Wednesday, the GEF Appeal Tribunal confirmed it had partially upheld Kuliak’s punishment, but amended it to state that it will end on May 16, 2023, and will not be directly dependent on the FIG’s broader ban on Russian athletes.

Kuliak made his gesture at the FIG Apparatus World Cup in Doha in March, where he finished third in the parallel bars event which was won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun.

Kuliak later said he and his fellow Russian competitors had faced “provocations” from Ukrainians throughout the event, leading to his actions on the podium.

The gymnast said in an interview with RT that he “didn’t wish anything bad on anyone” and that “as an athlete, I will always fight for victory and stand for peace.”

In addition to his ban, Kuliak was stripped of his medal, fined 500 Swiss francs (around $520) and ordered to pay costs towards the proceedings in his case.

Veteran Russian gymnastics trainer Valentina Rodionenko, who was at the event in Doha but was not punished by the FIG, also accused Ukrainian representatives of inflammatory behavior.

“I want to say that I’ve never experienced such humiliation in my entire coaching career,” Rodionenko said in comments shortly after the row emerged.

“In Qatar, they didn’t humiliate us, they humiliated our country… I approached the FIG representative and asked why the Ukrainians behaved like that, to which he replied that he could do nothing about it.”