Evgeny Rylov's ban has sparked anger in Russia ©Getty Images

The Kremlin has condemned the International Swimming Federation's (FINA) decision to give two-time Olympic swimming champion Evgeny Rylov a nine-month ban for attending the Moscow rally at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held the political rally on the anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, called "For a world without Nazism" on March 18.

Throughout the event, Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for The Kremlin said it was a politicisation of sport.

"We believe this is absolutely contrary to the ideas of sport," said Peskov.

"When the strongest (competitors) lose the opportunity to participate, this ultimately harms International Federations and international competitions."

He also referenced tennis players such as world number two in the men’s singles, Daniil Medvedev and world number eight Andrey Rublev, as being treated unfairly due to their ban from Wimbledon.

Rylov’s ban started on Wednesday (April 20), ending on January 19 2023.

However, the FINA Bureau already deemed all athletes from Russia and Belarus ineligible until the end of the year due to their nations’ involvement in the invasion of Ukraine, meaning Rylov’s ban will only cover another 19 days than what was already expected.

Due to his involvement, FINA investigated this on the grounds of "bringing aquatic sports into disrepute".

Speedo also dropped the swimmer's sponsorship deal, which said it would donate the remainder of its funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Vladimir Putin led the Moscow rally, which Evgeny Rylov attended ©Getty Images
Vladimir Putin led the Moscow rally, which Evgeny Rylov attended ©Getty Images

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said the decision taken was based on "political motivations" on social media.

"I have very laconic commentaries regarding a suspension of Evgeny Rylov and of Belarusian swimmers as I should say that the international sports is not only now a subject to international politics, but became a part of the politics," said Pozdnyakov.

"The more this frail issue keeps developing, the more it keeps exerting pressure on decisions of colleagues in certain International Federations.

"A decision to bar an athlete for nine months for attending a concert is not just a shame, but a laughing-stock decision.

"We are now expecting similar consecutive decisions in regard to other international athletes on behalf of International Federations, which had already shaped up their opinion in view of the present-day agenda.

"Meanwhile, what we are faced off now, is an obvious discrimination on ethnic grounds and a violation of athletes’ rights, as well as the violation of his or her human rights."

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin added that he thought the Rylov ban was "illegal".

"I view such decision as illegal," said Matytsin to reporters, according to Russia's official state news agency TASS.

"However, each international sports federation sets its own regulations.

"This was a discriminatory and politicised decision because the athlete is a pride of the global sports.

"Such decisions entail additional complications and violate the principles of sports."

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin suggested the ban was
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin suggested the ban was "illegal" ©Getty Images

Rylov won the men’s 100 metres and 200m backstroke gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The swimmer added he was looking into legal action.

"My lawyers have begun to work with this situation, we are carefully studying the essence of the case and the claims against me," said Rylov to Sports Express.

Dmitry Svishchev, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, said that the stance against the swimmer was "bordering Nazism."

"This decision needs to be challenged," said Svishchev to TASS.

"Rylov expressed his civic position and disqualifying for this means violating all international rules.

"FINA has joined the ranks of politicised federations that discriminate against Russian athletes for no reason and such an attitude towards Rylov is for his position for a Russian passport, is Russophobia bordering on Nazism."

He was one of several top athletes from Russia who attended the Moscow rally, with twin gymnasts Dina and Arina Averina also present, as well as Olympic cross-country skiing champion Alexander Bolshunov.

Figure skaters Nikita Katsapalov, Vladimir Morozov, Victoria Sinitsina and Evgenia Tarasova were also spotted, as was gymnast Ivan Kuliak, who is set to be banned by the International Gymnastics Federation for wearing the "Z" letter on the podium at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha.