Culture & Sport

Russian gymnast shows pro-invasion symbol before competition ban is effective

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a symbol supporting the invasion of Ukraine before the exclusion of Russians in international competitions became effective.

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A Russian gymnast displayed a symbol suggesting support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while on a competition podium. The ban on Russians in international gym competitions had not come into force, yet.

Ivan Kuliak, 20, displayed a symbol on his uniform supporting the invasion of Ukraine during a medal ceremony on March 5.

Kuliak taped the “Z” symbol to his vest at a World Cup event in Doha, Qatar. The Z is seen on Russian military vehicles and embraced by supporters of the war.

The gymnast finished third in parallel bars and took the bronze medal. The gold medalist Illia Kovtun, who also won silver on floor exercise and bronze on horizontal bar, is Ukrainian.

As a consequence of “his shocking behavior,” the International Gymnastics Federation asked the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against the artistic gymnast. The independent integrity unit was created in 2018 following the sex abuse scandal involving the former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Many world sports organizations excluded Russian and Belarus athletes from international competitions. FIFA excluded Russian teams and the national football team from all competitions including the 2022 World Cup. The International Olympic Committee banned the delegations from competing in the Winter Paralympics while the International Judo Federation removed Putin’s black belt and honorary president position.

But Ivan Kuliak was able to compete Saturday because the ban on athletes, officials and judges from the International Gymnastics Federation, known as F.I.G., took effect only on March 7.

The federation first adopted measures on February 26 that included canceling events in Russia, not displaying the national flag on uniforms or not playing the national anthem. But after the escalation of events and following the IOC recommendations, F.I.G. decided to adopt further emergency measures on Friday, a day before the incident.

Kuliak, a former national junior all-around champion did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics. He now faces a ban under the F.I.G. disciplinary code. The code allows gymnasts to be punished for acts that “behave in an offensive way”, “damage the image of gymnastics” or “demonstrate anti-sport behavior”.

Russians and Belarus will not participate in the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan from 10 to 13 March 2022.

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