Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been handed a one-year ban for displaying a symbol on his uniform supporting his country’s invasion of Ukraine. Kulak had taped the ‘Z’ symbol seen on Russian tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine and embraced by supporters of the war to his vest during the medal ceremony at a World Cup event in March. The International Gymnastics Federation has also conveyed the Russian gymnast to return the bronze medal and the prize money he won in parallel bars.
The commission concluded that Kuliak violated federation statutes of discipline, ethics, code of conduct and technical regulations when he carried the letter ‘Z’ on his singlet during the competition and the award ceremony.
“The 20-year-old, who won bronze in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, displayed the letter on the podium when he stood next to the Ukrainian gold medallist Illia Kovtun. Ivan Kuliak ranked third in the parallel bars final, behind Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun”, the statement read.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is to open disciplinary proceedings against Russia's Ivan Kuliak, who wore a 'Z' symbol during a medal ceremony. There was no handshake between the bronze medallist and winner, Illia Kovtun of Ukraine #rtesporthttps://t.co/lbxCvDsJei pic.twitter.com/dnA9EcVhOE
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) March 7, 2022
The 20-year-old former national junior all-around champion who did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics can appeal within 21 days. “If the protective measures keeping Russian athletes from competing are still in place on 17 May 2023, the ban shall continue and expire six months after removing said measures,” the federation’s disciplinary commission said in its ruling.
“Kuliak is not permitted to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organised by an affiliated FIG member federation for a year as of the date of this decision,” added the statement.
However, Kuliak backed himself and reportedly said that he thought the symbol ‘Z’ was a sign of victory, and that is why he was carrying it on his vest.
“I didn’t wish anything bad on anyone; I just showed my position”, quoted Kuliak.
Notably, Kulak has also been stripped of his bronze medal and will have to return the prize money of 500 Swiss francs (£404). The panel also clarified that no violations were found against Russian delegation leader Valentina Rodionenko and coach Igor Kalabushkin.