Swimwear brand Speedo has announced it is ending its contractual relationship with Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov after his appearance at a large pro-war rally in Russia on Friday.
Speedo announced the news in a press release Monday, terminating its sponsorship deal with Rylov and noting it would donate any outstanding sponsorship fees to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The organization issued the following statement:
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. 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.
As part of this decision, any outstanding sponsorship fees will be donated to UNHCR.
Rylov, a four-time Olympic medalist, was one of eight Russian athletes identified at the rally hosted by President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and appeared on stage wearing his Olympic medals alongside gymnasts and figure skaters.
The athletes wore the nationalist “Z” symbol and were celebrated ahead of Putin making a speech.
The 25-year-old won three medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games last summer earning a pair of individual golds in the men’s 100 and 200 backstroke while adding a silver in the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay. He also won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in the 200 back.
Rylov is notably a staff sergeant in the Moscow Oblast Police in Lobnya.
During the rally, Putin praised the nation’s “special operation,” referring to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and celebrated the 8-year anniversary of Russia annexing the formerly-Ukrainian territory of Crimea. He has also made it illegal for journalists to refer to it as a “war.”
The latest reports from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicate that more than 900 civilians have died in Ukraine due to the attacks, with the real number expected to be much higher.
Rylov’s presence at the rally has only fuelled swimmers’ calls on FINA to ban Russian athletes from competing in its competitions. FINA has blocked Russian athletes from competing internationally under the flag or symbols from their country, but hasn’t committed to the full ban that many other international sporting federations have instituted. The organization instead committed to evaluating athletes’ and officials’ participation on a case-by-case basis.
FINA has yet to indicate if Rylov’s appearance at the rally will trigger its case-by-case clause. The sport’s international governing body offered the following statement regarding the situation:
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.
In addition to his four Olympic medals, the Novotroitsk native also owns eight medals from the Long Course World Championships, including winning two straight golds in the 200 back in 2017 and 2019. Rylov is also a four-time SC world champion and four-time European champion.