Iranian weightlifter 'banned for life' after shaking hands with Israeli athlete

Iranian weightlifter 'banned for life' after shaking hands with Israeli athlete
Iranian weightlifter Mustafa Rajaei was banned for shaking hands with the Israel athlete, breaking the national federation's policy on Israel normalisation.
2 min read
31 August, 2023
Iran has banned its athletes from competing against Israelis [Getty-file photo]

An Iranian weightlifter has been banned from the sport for life by authorities after he was filmed shaking hands with an Israeli athlete, breaking the country's laws on normalisation, according to reports.

Mustafa Rajaei met his Israeli competitor, Maksim Svirsky, on the podium at the World Masters championship in Poland, both the weightlifters draped in their respective national flags.

Iran does not recognise Israel and has strict laws forbidding normalisation, including a boycott of Israeli athletes in sports.

The country's Weightlifting Federation issued a statement condemning the meeting between Rajaei and Svirsky, saying that the Iranian athlete would be banned from the sport.

"The Weightlifting Federation strongly condemns the action of the veteran weightlifter of the Iranian team during the World Veteran Championship, which is against the ideals of the Islamic Republic of Iran," the federation said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

It also said that the head of the Iranian delegation, Hamid Salehinia, was also banned.

"After further investigations, serious and decisive action will be taken against all the wrongdoers," the body added.

Iranian athletes are expected to boycott competitions against Israeli competitors, sometimes leading to their disqualification.

Current Iranian judo federation president Arash Miresmaeili, a two-time judo world champion,  showed up overweight for his fight against an Israeli at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and was disqualified. There have been reports of Iranian athletes being deliberately overfed to avoid bouts with Israeli athletes.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2021 reasserted the longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis and threatened action against those who break it. He also promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting the policy.

Other athletes from the region have also boycotted competitions against Israelis. Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the Tokyo Games due to a possible match-up against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.

Algeria, like Iran, also does not recognise Israel, while others have accused Israel of using sports as a driver for normalisation with Arab governments.