A Russian go-karting champion has been booted out by his team after he allegedly performed a Nazi salute on the podium after winning the race before laughing hysterically. Artem Severiukhin, 15, was seen in a video beating his chest and then doing a Nazi salute on the podium in Portimao in Portugal during the FIA Karting European Championship.
The decision to sack him comes despite Severiukhin denying that he deliberately made the gesture and insisted "there was no support of Nazism or racism" intended by his action. The FIA, the sport's governing body, is also looking is also investigating the incident and is likely to take strict action.
After securing first place in an 11-15 race at the European Karting Championships in Portugal yesterday, Severiukhin was seen in a now-viral video thumping his chest and displaying an outstretched palm. Severiukhin also then burst into a hysterical laughter, while the other two contestants and the entire arena stood shocked.
His gesture was immediately condemned by many. The teen was slammed on social media on Sunday and many demanded an apology. However, on Monday, Severiukhin's team Ward Racing sacked the star kart pilot after tournament organizers the FIA launched an investigation into his "unacceptable conduct."
Motorsports' governing body, the FIA, are also investigating and could ban the young racer.
The racer, however, maintained that the motion was not a statement that he backed fascism, but rather a typical Italian gesture because he competes under the Italian flag. "I want to apologize. I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity," he said.
"I am ready to be punished but there was no support for Nazism or fascism." However, that didn't help him much now he has been sacked.
Setting an Example
Severiukhin's team's decision to sack him has been cheered by many. "A statement from the FIA said: "The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile confirms that it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round One of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at the Kartodromo International do Algarve in Portugal," the FIA said in a statement.
"The FIA will communicate shortly on the further steps that will be taken in this case."
Severiukhin was representing Italy, rather than the country of his birth, Russia, due to sanctions placed on Russian athletes following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The teenager's Swedish-owned team had earlier said they were "deeply in shame" over Severiukhin's actions, which they condemned in the "strongest possible terms", also criticising Russia's invasion of Ukraine and stating that that Severiukhin's gesture did not represent the values of the team.
It may be that Severiukhin made the Nazi gesture because he was performing for Italy. During the medal ceremony in PortimÃ£o, the Italian national anthem was also playing.
However, even in Italy the far-right gesture is also frowned upon - and has been illegal to perform in public since 1952.