Russian double Olympic swimming champion Evgeny Rylov banned from sports for nine months for attending Vladimir Putin rally

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Russian Olympic gold medalist swimmer Evgeny Rylov has been banned from sport for nine months for participating in a rally in support of President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rylov was on stage with medalists from other Olympic sports at the event last month and wore a jacket with a “Z” on his chest.

The letter is not part of the Russian alphabet but became a symbol of support for Russian troops after being used as a marker on Russian armored vehicles operating in Ukraine.

A brief statement from world swimming governing body FINA said it “acknowledges” an earlier, as yet unpublished decision by a disciplinary panel to ban Rylov “following the presence and Mr. Rylov’s conduct at an event at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow”.

Rylov was the star of the Russian swimming team at the Tokyo Olympics last year with two gold medals.

His ban began on Wednesday and covers all international competition.

The effect on Rylov will likely be mostly symbolic, as FINA has also extended its decision to bar competitors from Russia and its ally Belarus from all international events for the remainder of 2022.

Rylov also lost a sponsorship deal with Speedo last month.

FINA previously banned Russia and Belarus from the world championships in Hungary in June, but left them free to compete in other events.

At the time, FINA said that Russia was planning to boycott all international events anyway, which Russia denied. This position has now been clarified.

“The office also confirmed its position that Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials will not be invited to any FINA events until the end of 2022,” FINA said.

FINA’s mandate covers a range of aquatic sports, including swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has indicated he supports disciplinary action against athletes such as Rylov.

Figure skaters Yevgenia Medvedeva (with flag) and Alina Zagitova (front right) and other Olympians were at the same pro-Putin rally, but so far only Evgeny Rylov has been sanctioned.(Getty Images: Anadolu Agency/Nataliy Zemboska)

The IOC has previously urged event organizers to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams from participating in their competitions, or, Bach said last month “in special circumstances, at least ban any identification of their nationality.”

There has been no news of a disciplinary investigation against other Russian athletes in sports such as figure skating, gymnastics and skiing who also participated in the March 18 rally.

PA

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