Several Olympic Athletes Under Fire Over Putin Rally Support

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Several Russian Olympic athletes are facing a backlash over their support of Vladimir Putin and his war against the Ukraine during a recent rally.

On Friday, Olympic medalists from gymnastics, swimming, skiing, and swimming appeared on stage at Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium. The gathering had formed part of an entertainment program around a speech made by the Russian president.

The Federation Internationale De Natation, or FINA, the governing body for swimming, is currently investigating Olympic swimmer Evgeny Rylov for his participation in the event. Rylov also this week forfeited his endorsement contract with swimwear giant Speedo.

The company said this week it strongly condemns the war in Ukraine and continues to stand alongside the people of the country and also its athletes. Speedo also announced that the company will be donating the remainder of Rylov’s endorsement fee to the United Nations’ refugee care agency, the UNHRC.

The majority of the athletes in attendance at Putin’s rally wore jackets embossed with a “Z” on the chest. While “Z” isn’t part of the Russian alphabet, it has become a support-symbol for the war following its use on Russian vehicles of armour.

Friday’s controversial event was staged on the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and the annexation that followed.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, most sports have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in their events. The bans were imposed after a recommendation to that particular end by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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