FINA no longer decides after ban on Russian swimmers’ races

Swimming’s world governing body FINA said it would not seek any further punishment for a Russian swimmer who competed in national championships while serving a ban for participating in a rally in support of President Vladimir Putin and of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

FINA suspended two-time Olympic backstroke gold medalist Evgeny Rylov for nine months last week after he appeared at the rally in Moscow last month.

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Rylov appeared on stage with other Russian athletes and wore his Olympic medals and 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.

Rylov continued to race at the Russian championships on Sunday, prompting a FINA review into whether he had violated the terms of his suspension.

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 27: Evgeny Rylov of Team ROC celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 100m Backstroke Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Center on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) (Getty)

FINA said in an emailed statement on Thursday that its review had determined that the national championships were not under its direct oversight and therefore outside the scope of the ban.

“FINA has reviewed Mr. Rylov’s participation in the Russian Swimming Championships and will take no further action,” FINA wrote. “The Russian Swimming Championships was not a FINA sanctioned event and is not related to any FINA event.”

The ruling confirms Rylov’s suspension is likely to be mostly symbolic as FINA barred competitors from Russia and its ally Belarus from all international events for the remainder of 2022. He also lost a sponsorship deal with Speedo last month .

Putin on Tuesday called the decision to suspend Rylov “absurd” and said he had simply attended a concert, in comments reported by Russian state news agencies.

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