Banned Russian ‘Z’ protest gymnast handed competition boost
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been cleared to compete in the ‘Spartakiad’ games in his homeland after global governing body the FIG expressed no objections.
Kuliak had a 12-month suspension partially upheld by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) Appeal Tribunal earlier this month, meaning he will be sidelined from official international competition until May 16, 2023.
The ban was initially imposed in May of this year after Kuliak appeared on the podium of a World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, with a ‘Z’ attached to his leotard.
The symbol is used by Russian forces during the military operation in Ukraine and is displayed as a show of support by sections of the population at home.
There were fears that Kuliak, 20, would also be prevented from competing in domestic events after he was forced to pull out of the Russian Cup back in July.
However, the president of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation (FSGR), Vasily Titov, has confirmed that the youngster can at least perform at the gymnastics ‘Spartakiad’ in Kazan, which runs from September 26 to October 1.
“These competitions are held by the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation, not by the (Russian gymnastics) federation,” Titov told RIA Novosti.
“We notified the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and the disciplinary commission about this and received no objections from them, so he will participate.”
The ‘Spartakiad’ games have been organized across a series of sports for Russian athletes to help compensate for the international bans imposed because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The events are the revival of a Soviet-era idea and have been praised as a success by the likes of Russian rhythmic gymnastics icon Irina Viner.
The FIG joined numerous other federations by banning Russian athletes back in March.
If that broader ban had still been in place in May of next year, Kuliak’s personal suspension would have continued and would only have ended six months after the overall FIG suspension of Russian gymnasts was lifted.
However, the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) Appeal Tribunal subsequently amended Kuliak’s sanction so that it would not be dependent on the broader FIG ban on Russians.
Kuliak made his ‘Z’ 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.