A two-time Olympic gold medallist is on the outer after appearing at a star-studded rally supporting Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.
Speedo has ended its association with Russian Olympic gold medallist Evgeny Rylov after he attended a rally in support of the invasion of Ukraine.
Rylov was one of several athletes to appear at the event, organized as a mass show of support for the war, and even appeared on stage before President Vladimir Putin gave a speech.
“Following his attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow at the weekend, Speedo can confirm that it has terminated the sponsorship of Evgeny Rylov with immediate effect,” Speedo said 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 teammates who have been impacted by the conflict.”
Speedo said it would donate Rylov’s sponsorship dollars to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which is helping relocate Ukrainians who have been forced to flee because of Russia’s widely-condemned military invasion.
Rylov was pictured among other high-profile athletes wearing the “Z” war symbol but there is a belief some of those at the stadium were forced into going against their will.
Swimming’s world governing body FINA also said it would investigate Rylov’s appearance at the pro-war rally.
“FINA is deeply disappointed to note the reports regarding Evgeny Rylov’s appearance at the Luzhniki Stadium during Friday’s rally,” a spokesman said.
“We are investigating the matter further.”
Rylov boasts eight world championship medals and won gold at last year’s Tokyo Olympics in the 100m and 200 backstroke, to go with his bronze in the 200m backstroke at the 2016 Rio Games.
He was at the center of controversy in Japan when American rival Ryan Murphy made explosive accusations and complained about Russia not being punished severely enough for running a state sponsored doping program — with Rylov sitting right next to him at a press conference.
“I’ve got 15 thoughts, 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble,” Murphy said at the time.
“It is what it is. I try not to get caught up in that. It is a huge mental drain on me to go throughout the year, that I am swimming in a race that’s probably not clean and that is what it is.
“I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.
“The people that know a lot more about the situation made the decision they did. It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me.”
Rylov defended himself in the face of the complaints.
“I always do the doping tests … I would not be able to forgive myself if I had taken something,” he said.
“I don’t know how to react to this. I haven’t been accused of anything.”