Ivan Kuliak won bronze in the parallel bars final at the Apparatus World Cup in Qatar’s capital Doha, with the letter ‘Z’ prominently placed on his shirt.
Russian artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak will face disciplinary action by The International Gymnastics Federation after displaying support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 20 year-old wore a shirt with a prominent ‘Z’ in the middle of it, as he stood next to Ukraine’s gold medalist, Illia Kovtun. It was placed in the space where a nation’s flag would traditionally be.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said in a statement that it will open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak after what they labeled as “shocking behaviour.”
Kuliak, a former all-around and floor national junior champion, had earned a bronze medal in the parallel bars during the Apparatus World Cup, hosted in Qatar.
After the tournament, Kovtun shook hands with Kazakhstani competitor Milad Karimi, who placed second, but did not acknowledge the third-placed Russian during the ceremony.
Following the incident, social media users took to the official social media page of the FIG and demanded Kuliak be punished for his political symbolism.
“FIG confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Kuliak following his shocking behaviour at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar,” a statement from the ruling body said.
International Gymnastics Federation sanctions
FIG is one of the many sports governing organisations that took action against Russia. Following the start of the invasion, it banned the flags and anthems of Russia and Belarus at all of its competitions. Additionally, athletes from the two nations are not allowed to wear their countries’ official uniforms.
The organisation had also already cancelled all of its events in Russia and Belarus. However, that did not stop Kuliak from making a political statement on the podium in Doha.
Kuliak, among fellow Russian and Belarusian gymnasts, will be affected by a full ban by FIG, which comes into full force today, Monday.
The ‘Z’ symbol
The letter ‘Z’, which is of a part of the Cyrillic Russian alphabet, is used by Russian forces as an identifier for their tanks and vehicles in Ukraine. The symbol is also displayed by supporters of the invasion.
The symbol was first spotted on February 22, sprayed on a Russian military vehicles rolling into Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
The ‘Z’ has been interpreted by some experts as for “za pobedy”, which directly translates to “victory” in Russian.
Last Monday, FIFA and UEFA announced that they will be expelling Russia from all international football.
The Russian football federation (RFU) said on Thursday that it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against its expulsion from the 2022 World Cup and all international competitions.
The RFU said the single lawsuit’s main demand is to restore “all men’s and women’s national teams of Russia for all types of football.” Adding that it plans to seek “compensation for damage.”
Israeli gymnasts participation
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, multiple sports governing bodies have banned Russia from global sporting events.
The international community pointed out the ‘double standards’ exercised by these institutions when it comes to mixing sports with politics.
First photo is Celtic fans showing solidarity to Palestine – fined and condemned by UEFA and media.
Second photo is Bodo Glimt fans showing solidarity to Ukraine on Thursday night – no fine or condemnation will come.
Why are certain politics not welcome in sport but others are? pic.twitter.com/pBlGLfyvlC
— Michael Kelly (@MichaelKelly137) February 26, 2022
Starting today, FIG’s ban on the participation of Russian and Belarusian gymnasts goes into effect. In contrast, Israeli players Artem Dolgopyat and Alexander Myakinin took a part in the Apparatus World Cup, and FIG has never imposed any sanctions on the apartheid state.
Dolgopyat is a sergeant in the Israeli military at a base in occupied Palestine, and this visit marks the second for him in less than a year.
In 2021, pro-Palestine group Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation (QAYON) called out the Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) for hosting 3 Israeli athletes.
After 70 years Israel’s occupation persists in Palestine. In 2021, Israeli security forces killed at least 313 Palestinians, including 71 children.