Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak slapped with 12-month ban for wearing 'Z' war symbol on podium next to Ukrainian athlete
RUSSIAN gymnast Ivan Kuliak has been slapped with a 12-month ban for wearing the controversial ‘Z’ war symbol next to a Ukrainian athlete.
Kuliak caused uproar in March after finishing third in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha.
Standing next to Ukrainian winner Illia Kovtun, he proudly displayed the Russian army’s ‘Z’ symbol on his chest.
The letter has been featured on Russian tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine.
And it has become a symbol of support for Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
The International Gymnastics Federation (IGF) declared it would push to open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak “following his shocking behaviour.”
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And they have now announced that the 20-year-old has been banned from competing for at least one year.
Kuliak will be unable to compete in events until May 2023.
But that could be extended should current bans on displaying Russian flags or playing the national anthem at competitions remain in place.
Kuliak has also been stripped of his bronze medal and third-place finish.
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And he must return his £400 prize money while also paying £1,600 to cover investigation costs.
Yet in spite of his ban and punishment, Kuliak remains defiant over his actions.
He told Russia Today: “If there was a second chance and I had a choice whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do the same.
“I saw it on our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out to be ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’.
“I just wanted to show my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and play for peace.”
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