FINA suspends Olympic champion Rylov for nine months over Putin rally

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 100m Backstroke – Final – Tokyo Aquatics Center – Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021. Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after winning the gold medal REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

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  • Rylov won two gold medals at the Tokyo Games
  • Kremlin, Russian officials angered by ban
  • Russians, Belarusians sidelined by FINA

April 22 (Reuters) – World swimming governing body FINA said on Friday it had suspended Russian Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Rylov for nine months after he attended a rally in support of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, a move that angered one Reaction from the Kremlin entailed and Russian sports officials.

Rylov, who won gold in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was among several athletes who attended a large rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium last month hosted by President Vladimir Putin.

Rylov and other athletes wore the letter “Z” on their outfits, an identifying mark used by supporters of what Russia is calling its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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FINA said the suspension came “following Mr Rylov’s attendance and conduct at an event at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow”.

Rylov, who also lost his sponsorship deal with swimwear maker Speedo because of his presence at the rally, told Sport Express newspaper his lawyers are reviewing the case but it’s still unclear whether they will appeal his suspension. Continue reading

The Kremlin said FINA’s decision showed the “politicization of sport”.

“We believe that this is absolutely contrary to the ideas of the sport,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “If the strongest (competitors) lose the opportunity to participate, it ultimately harms international federations and international competitions.”

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying Rylov’s suspension was “discriminatory and politicised”.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee, called it a case of discrimination based on nationality.

“Having an athlete banned for nine months for attending a concert isn’t even embarrassing, it’s a joke,” Pozdnyakov wrote on the Telegram messenger app.

FINA has already canceled all of its events scheduled to take place in Russia, banning Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from participating in its competitions until the end of the year.

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Reuters reporting; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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