Russian gymnast, Ivan Kuliak, has said he has no regrets over wearing a symbol in support of the invasion of Ukraine on the podium following a World Cup event in Doha on Saturday.
Kuliak attached a letter ‘Z’ to his chest before receiving his bronze medal in the parallel bars, an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun.
The letter has been seen daubed on the sides of Russian tanks, and has come to be regarded as a sign of support for the invasion.
The 20-year-old’s move was condemned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which has asked its Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to launch an investigation.
But Kuliak, who faces the prospect of a lengthy ban, was unrepentant on Tuesday, 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.
‘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.’
Prior to the event in Doha, the FIG had announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials would be banned from international events from March 7 until further notice in line with global sporting sanctions against the country.
Kuliak received military training with the Russian army last year.
The symbol on his shirt was in place of the Russian flag, which has been banned by the International Gymnastics Federation.
‘Z’ merchandise is being sold by Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded TV channel.
The Russian Defence Ministry also issued a statement saying that ‘Z’ means victory.
In their own statement, released on Monday March 7, the FIG said: ‘The International Gymnastics Federation confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against … Kuliak following his shocking behaviour at the Apparatus World Cup.’