Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak banned for wearing 'Z' symbol in support of war in Ukraine

Credit: Claro Sports

A Russian gymnast has been given a one-year ban from competing after he wore the pro-Russian 'Z' sign on a podium.

Ivan Kuliak wore the letter to express his support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The symbol, seen on invading tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine and embraced by supporters of the war, was taped to Kuliak's vest during a medal ceremony (where he stood next to a Ukrainian gold medallist) at a World Cup event in March.

The 20-year-old at the time said he had no regrets over his decision, telling 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".

A local Mariupol resident walks past a damaged vehicle marked with the letter Z, which has become a symbol of the Russian military. Credit: AP

Along with the ban, Kuliak must return the bronze medal he won in parallel bars, the International Gymnastics Federation said.

"If the protective measures keeping Russian athletes from competing are still in place on May 17, 2023, the ban shall continue and expire six months after the removal of said measures," the federation's disciplinary commission said.

The commission found that Kuliak breached federation statutes of discipline, ethics, code of conduct and technical regulations "when he wore the letter ‘Z’ on his singlet during the competition and the award ceremony".

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Kuliak, a former national junior all-around champion who did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics, has 21 days to appeal the ruling.

Speaking in the aftermath of the incident in March, the athlete said: "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."

The panel said no violations were established against Russian delegation leader Valentina Rodionenko and coach Igor Kalabushkin.