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Speedo Drops Russian Olympic Champion Swimmer After He Attends Pro-War Rally In Moscow

Speedo Drops Russian Olympic Champion Swimmer After He Attends Pro-War Rally In Moscow

Swimwear company Speedo reportedly canceled its sponsorship deal with two-time Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Rylov after he was spotted attending a pro-war rally in Moscow.

The Russian Olympic champion swimmer, who won gold in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics held last year, was one of eight Russian athletes identified at the rally hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The rally held at the Luzhniki Stadium on Friday commemorated the eighth anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

The 25-year-old swimmer was seen on stage alongside gymnasts, skiers, and figure skaters wearing their Olympic medals and sporting outfits with the "Z" symbol–a military emblem co-oped by Russia's nationalist movement which has been seen painted on Russian tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine.

According to a statement to Inside the Games Speedo said of Rylov:

"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."

The company added:

"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 announced they will donate Rylov's remaining sponsorship balance to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which is aiding Ukrainian citizens in fleeing from their homes since Russia's attack on Ukraine.

In Tokyo, Rylov was forced to compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee due to the World Anti-Doping Agency imposing a ban on his country after evidence of a state-sponsored doping program.

He was awarded the Order of Russia by Putin following his victory at the Tokyo games.

Inside the Games noted that because Rylov is a police sergeant in Lobnya–which is 20 miles northwest of Moscow–he had "little choice but to attend the rally" in Moscow.

Because of this, social media users questioned his attendance at the rally.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA)–which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for administering international competitions in water sports–issued a statement addressing the situation.

They wrote:

"FINA is deeply disappointed to note the reports regarding Evgeny Rylov's appearance at the Luzhniki Stadium during Friday's rally. We are investigating the matter further."

FINA is one of few sports governing bodies allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals despite the IOC's support to ban those athletes.

However, Inside the Games reported the governing body may consider an outright ban "if their attendance threatens the safety and wellbeing of athletes or places the conduct of competition at risk."