DrRussian gymnast Ivan Koljak has been banned for at least a year by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). The association announced this on Tuesday. Kulyak won a bronze medal at the World Championships held in Qatar in early March and wore a T-shirt with the letter “Z” on it at the awards ceremony on the podium alongside Ukrainian winner Ilya Kovtun. Kulyak used the symbol to express his solidarity with the Russian forces participating in the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian defended his decision immediately after the World Cup, saying: “If I had a choice again whether to wear the letter Z on my chest or not, I would choose the same option,” he told Russia’s state broadcaster Russia Today. In his own words, the 20-year-old saw the symbol in the Russian army and then realized that he was standing for victory and peace. “I don’t wish anything bad to anyone,” said Koljak. “I just wanted to show my place as an athlete. I will always fight for victory and defend peace.”
Feedback from Russia and Ukraine
Ukrainian gymnast and Olympic champion in Rio Ole Vernyaev criticized Kulyak’s comments on Instagram: “With all due respect, please bear with me, but the Russians should not complain that the sport is out of politics!”
Valentina Rodionenko, coach of the Russian national team, did not see any reason for punishment. “We did not break any rules and we did not provoke anyone,” she told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “No one immediately said anything. We drove away, after which, apparently, the Ukrainian side submitted an appeal to the disciplinary committee. “
They wanted to provoke the Russian team from the first day of the competition and tried to create a conflict situation. “The Ukrainian coaches insulted our country, said bad things,” Rodionenko said. “Our boys replied that you should think about sports when you’re competing, not politics.” However, I was ready to be excluded.
The FIG statement said Kuljak had violated the organisation’s charter, rules of discipline, ethics and conduct, as well as technical regulations. In addition to the ban, the Russian was stripped of his bronze medal and had to return the prize money. Russian and Belarusian athletes have been officially banned from participating in competitions under the jurisdiction of the World Federation since March 7 by a decision of FIFA due to the Ukraine war.
Kulyak’s suspension is valid until at least May 17, 2023. If the sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes continue until then, Kulyak’s suspension will automatically expire after six months.