March 22, 2022
(Reuters) – Swimwear maker Speedo has ended its sponsorship with Russia’s double Olympic swimming champion Evgeny Rylov after he attended a rally hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, Olympics news website insidethegames reported.
The sport’s world governing body FINA said in a statement carried by swimming website SwimSwam that it was “deeply disappointed” by Rylov’s appearance at the rally and would investigate the matter.
Rylov, who won gold in 100 and 200 metres backstroke events at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was among eight athletes identified at the rally last Friday and sported the letter ‘Z’ on his outfit, insidethegames said.
Russian forces have used the letter ‘Z’ as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour, which it calls a “special military operation.”
Some supporters of the invasion have also displayed the symbol.
“Following his attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow at the weekend, Speedo can confirm that it has terminated the sponsorship of Rylov with immediate effect,” insidethegames quoted Speedo as saying in a statement.
“We condemn the war in Ukraine in the strongest possible way and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, our athletes and our team mates who have been impacted by the conflict.”
Speedo and FINA did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment. Reuters has also sought comment from Rylov via Russia’s swimming federation.
The report added that Speedo would donate the balance of Rylov’s fee to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
FINA has already cancelled this year’s World Junior Swimming Championships that were set to take place in Kazan, Russia in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It also withdrew the FINA Order awarded to Putin in 2014.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)