- Evgeny Rylov was one of many Russian athletes to take part in a pro-war rally on Friday.
- The swimmer has now been dropped by his sponsor, Speedo, Inside The Games reported.
- “We condemn the war in Ukraine in the strongest possible way,” the brand said.
Swimming brand Speedo has reportedly canceled its sponsorship deal with Russian Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Rylov after attending a pro-war rally in Moscow.
Rylov, who won gold in the 100 and 200 meters backstroke at Tokyo 2020, was one of eight Russian athletes identified at the rally hosted by President Vladimir Putin at Luzhniki Stadium on Friday.
The 25-year-old swimmer appeared on stage wearing his Olympic medals and the ‘Z’ symbol, which was seen painted on Russian vehicles in Ukraine shortly before Putin gave a speech. Other athletes pictured at the rally included cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov, who won three gold medals in Beijing last month, and Olympic ice dancers Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina.
“Following his appearance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow this weekend, Speedo can confirm that he has terminated the sponsorship of Evgeny Rylov with immediate effect,” Speedo said in a statement to Inside the Games.
“We condemn the war in Ukraine in the strongest possible terms and stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, our athletes and our teammates who have been affected by the conflict.”
According to Inside the Games, Speedo will donate the balance of Rylov’s sponsorship fees to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which helps those fleeing Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
Inside the Games also reported that world swimming governing body FINA announced it was investigating Rylov’s participation in the event.
“FINA is deeply disappointed to take note of reports regarding the appearance of Evgeny Rylov at Luzhniki Stadium during Friday’s rally,” a spokesperson told the publication.
“We are investigating the matter further.”
—Fouad Alakbarov (@DrAlakbarov) March 19, 2022
Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, citing the need for the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the neighboring country, whose President Volodyrmyr Zelenskyy is Jewish.
In his speech at Friday’s rally, Putin praised the “special operation” in Ukraine, saying Russia “hasn’t had such unity for a long time.”
He also repeated his baseless claims that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russian speakers in its eastern region of Donbass.
“It was truly genocide,” he said. “Stopping that was the purpose of the special operation.”
Russian actor Vladimir Mashkova also spoke at the rally, after which his daughter Masha, also an actress, took to CNN to criticize him.
“What’s happening right now is just unthinkable,” she said. “And the fact that so many Russians, including my father, believe that this violence is somehow justified – it breaks my heart.”