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Russian gymnast facing ban for pro-invasion symbol on podium

March 7, 2022 GMT

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak is expected to be investigated after displaying a symbol on his uniform supporting the invasion of Ukraine.

Kuliak taped the “Z” symbol — seen on Russian tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine and embraced by supporters of the war — to his vest for a medal ceremony at a World Cup event on Saturday in Doha, Qatar. He took bronze in parallel bars and stood next to a gold medalist from Ukraine.

The International Gymnastics Federation, known as FIG, denounced the “shocking behavior” by Kuliak and pledged to ask its independent integrity unit to investigate.

“We can confirm that (FIG) has informed us that they will formally be seeking the opening of disciplinary proceedings against male artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak,” the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation said Monday.

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The 20-year-old Kuliak was able to compete in Qatar because the exclusion of all gymnasts and officials from Russia and Belarus did not take effect until Monday. The Russian flag was already barred from his uniform by an earlier FIG decision.

Kuliak, a former national junior all-around champion who did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics, now faces a ban under the FIG disciplinary code. The code allows gymnasts to be punished for acts that “behave in an offensive way,” “damage the image of gymnastics” or “demonstrate anti-sport behavior.”

The sport’s ethics foundation was created in 2018 following the sex abuse scandal involving former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

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