Iranian weightlifter banned for life after shaking hands with Israeli rival

Tehran authorities said the athlete "crossed red lines" with the exchange on the medal podium in Poland


(JNS) Iranian weightlifter Mostafa Rajaei has been handed a lifetime ban by the regime in Tehran for shaking the hand of an Israeli competitor at an event in Poland.

Rajaei shook hands with Israeli weightlifter Maksim Svirsky as they stood at the medal podium at a World Masters championship in Wieliczka, in the Krakow metropolitan area, on Saturday.

According to the lslamic Republic News Agency, the silver-medal-winning Iranian athlete stood on the medal platform "next to the representative of the regime that burned Jerusalem and placed the Iranian flag next to the Israeli flag without paying attention to the red lines and the values ​​of the system."

The Islamic Republic of Iran Weightlifting Federation said in a statement cited by the state-run news agency that it "bans athlete Mostafa Rajaei for life from entering all sports facilities in the country and dismisses the head of the delegation for the competition, Hamid Salehinia."

Rajaei is a former member of the Iranian national team and represented his country at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in 2015 in Thailand.

The Islamic Republic is a sworn enemy of the Jewish state, with its leaders routinely threatening Israel's destruction.

In 2021, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged athletes “not to shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime [Israel] to obtain a medal.”

For years, Iranian athletes have also managed to avoid meeting Israelis in competitions, often by getting disqualified or providing medical certificates testifying that they were unwell.

Young chess prodigy Alireza Firouzja left Iran after the sport's federation banned him from playing in the 2019 world championship for fear he would face an Israeli player. He is now a naturalised French citizen.

Meanwhile, many athletes from Arab and Muslim countries with no formal diplomatic relations with Israel have withdrawn from competitions with Israeli competitors. 

Earlier this year, Lebanese runner Mazen Chreim withdrew from the 200 metre competition of the World Athletics Masters Indoor Championships in Poland in March after he was placed in a group that included an Israeli runner.

Kuwaiti fencer Abdulaziz Alshatti withdrew from the 2023 Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) Senior World Cup contests in Turkey in May to avoid taking on an Israeli contestant.

In July, the World Beach Games were cancelled after Indonesia withdrew as host of the tournament at the last minute.

At the time of the cancellation, no reasons were given by the hosts but Bali Governor Wayan Koster said in April that he would not allow Israeli athletes on his island for the games.

Also earlier this year, Indonesia was stripped of hosting privileges for the U20 World Cup after calls to ban Israel’s participation in the tournament.

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