FILE PHOTO: Russia’s Evgeny Rylov celebrates with his bronze medal after the men’s 200m backstroke final at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia August 7, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

March 23, 2022

(Reuters) – Russian double Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov on Wednesday pulled out of this year’s swimming world championships in Budapest in support of athletes banned from competing under the Russian flag following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rylov, who won gold in the 100- and 200-metre backstroke events at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, lost his sponsorship deal with swimwear maker Speedo after attending a rally hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

“In support of Russian Paralympians, in support of all Russian athletes who have been removed from international competitions, I refuse to go to the world championship this summer,” Rylov wrote on Instagram.

“I believe that losing competition is losing the development of sport. As sad as it may sound, sport cannot move without decent competitors.”

Swimming’s world governing body FINA said that Russian and Belarusian athletes can only compete as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 on what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

FINA has already cancelled this year’s World Junior Swimming Championships that were set to take place in the southwestern Russian city of Kazan.

This year’s world swimming championships, originally scheduled to be held in Fukuoka, Japan, will run from June 18-July 3 in Budapest.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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