Russian gymnast Ivan Kulyak has been banned for at least a year by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

The association announced this on Tuesday.

Kulyak won bronze at the World Championships in Qatar in early March and wore a jersey with the letter 'Z' at the awards ceremony on the podium alongside Ukrainian winner Illya Kovtun.

Kulyak used the symbol to express his solidarity with Russian troops involved in the invasion of Ukraine.

Alexander Davydov

sports editor.

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The Russian defended his decision immediately after the World Cup: "If I had the choice again whether to wear the letter Z on my chest or not, I would make the same choice," he told Russia's state broadcaster Russia Today.

In his own words, the 20-year-old saw the symbol in the Russian military and then realized that it stood for victory and peace.

"I don't wish anything bad on anyone," Kuljak said.

“I just wanted to demonstrate my position as an athlete.

I will always fight for victory and stand for peace.”

Reactions from Russia and Ukraine

The Ukrainian gymnast and Olympic champion in Rio, Oleh Vernyaev, criticized Kulyak's statements on Instagram: "With all due respect, please bear with me, but the Russians should not complain that sport is outside of politics!"

Valentina Rodionenko, coach of the Russian national team, saw no reason for a punishment.

"We didn't break any rules and didn't provoke anyone," she told Russia's Novosti news agency.

"Nobody said anything on the spot.

We flew away, and then, apparently, the Ukrainian side appealed to the disciplinary commission.”

They wanted to provoke the Russian team from the first day of the competition and tried to create a conflict situation.

"Ukrainian coaches insulted our country, said bad things," Rodionenko said.

"Our boys replied that you have to think about sport when you compete, not about politics." Nevertheless, you were prepared for the disqualification.

The FIG statement said Kuljak had violated the organization's charter, code of discipline, ethics and conduct, as well as technical regulations.

In addition to the ban, the Russian was stripped of his bronze medal and had to return the prize money.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been officially banned from participating in competitions under the sovereignty of the world federation since March 7th by a decision of the FIG because of the Ukraine war.

Kulyak's suspension is valid until at least May 17, 2023. If the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian athletes are still in place until then, Kulyak's suspension will automatically end six months later.