The Energy Standard International Swimming Club, which won the 2020 International Swimming League title, has announced a suspension of all agreements with Russian athletes and support staff after the country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
At the same time, the club acknowledged that the athletes “may not understand the magnitude of the true atrocities being committed by the Russian military.”
This is the first move by any ISL entity to suspend Russian athletes in the wake of the war in Ukraine that has killed over 900 civilians and at least 10,000 soldiers, with estimates by some groups much higher.
The statement from Energy Standard specifically relates to its contracts with Russian athletes and would not necessarily extend to any additional endorsement contracts between athletes and the league.
Konstantin Grigorishin, the founder and primary financier of the league, was born in the USSR in an area that is now Ukraine. He obtained Ukrainian citizenship in 2016 amid a tax dispute with Russia, and blamed the war for tying up his assets in Ukraine and preventing him from being able to make a recent solidarity payment to athletes.
While Grigorishin is believed to have a majority ownership stake in most of the league’s teams, Energy Standard is viewed as “his team” because it bears the name of his company and is connected to the pre-ISL training group that he organized and funded.
Energy Standard has had a number of Russian athletes on its roster throughout its history, including 5 male swimmers in the inaugural 2019 season.
In the 2022 season, the roster included Evgeny Rylov (38.8 points/match), Kliment Kolesnikov (27.3 points/match), Evgeniia Chikunova (23.7 points/match), Andrei Zhilkin (10,1 points/match), and Maxim Stupin (5.7 points/match) from Russia.
This is the second blow in as many days for Rylov after Speedo cut ties with him on Monday. Rylov appeared on stage at a pro-war rally hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
Stupin has also made at least one pro-war comment on Instagram.
Dmitry Lazarev, Rylov’s coach, and Vitta Novzhilovs, Chikunova’s coach, were also on the team’s support staff last season.
So far, the club has not suspended any Belarusian athletes or support staff from the team. Many sporting organizations have levied similar punishments on Belarus as they have on Russia because of Belarus’ support of the Russian invasion.
Among the team’s Belarusian athletes last season was their highest-scoring male swimmer Ilya Shymanovich and another key piece Anastaia Shkurdai.
The league says that the decision by Energy Standard was made “in conversation with and with the full cooperation of the ISL,” and that the league will be following up shortly with an announcement of their own.
Because the league is in its offseason, and has missed recent payments to athletes anyway, it’s not clear that this suspension is anything more than symbolic at this point, though some athletes have expanded arrangements with the league to promote activities on social media year round.
The full statement sent to the team reads as follows:
In recent days we have seen high profile Russian athletes demonstrating very public support for the invasion of Ukraine. We acknowledge that, due to the propaganda War, these athletes may not understand the magnitude of the true atrocities being committed by the Russian military. However, their actions have caused considerable harm and this cannot go without consequence.
In line with other major international sporting codes and with immediate effect the Energy Standard International swimming club has suspended all agreements with Russian athletes & support staff.