The Chicago Journal

Disciplinary Action Meted for Russian Gymnast Wearing ‘Z’ Symbol on a Podium

Photo: NPR/YouTube

Disciplinary action was meted out for Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak after wearing a “Z” symbol on his uniform while standing next to Ukrainian Illia Kovtun on the podium at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, last Saturday.

Although Z is not part of the Cyrillic alphabet, the letter has become a symbol of support for the Ukraine invasion, and Russian military vehicles have been seen with the letter. Supporters of the invasion have utilized its use.

Kovtun won gold, and Kuliak won bronze for parallel bars, which allowed the two athletes to stand beside each other in the medal ceremony.

On Sunday, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) issued a statement saying that “it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against male artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak (RUS) following his shocking behavior at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar.”

The Russian flag had been banned by the FIG, so Kuliak taped the letter on his uniform in its place. The flags of both Russia and Belarus were banned from display in any FIG competitions, the world gymnastics regulatory body announced in late February. It also banned the two countries’ national anthems.

Effective March 7, the FIG has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from participating in any FIG competitions or FIG-sanctioned competitions.

The FIG’s announcement aligns with other world sporting organizations distancing themselves from Russia since the Ukraine invasion.

International soccer governing body FIFA also recently suspended all Russian soccer teams from competitions until further notice. This decision came after numerous European teams refused to play Russia in upcoming competitions and World Cup qualifying matches. The suspension was supported by the governing body of European soccer, UEFA. As a result, Russia has been effectively banned from competing in the upcoming 2022 World Cup.

The Beijing Paralympic Games also banned Russian athletes from competing the day before the games began.