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Iranian weightlifter banned for life after shaking Israeli competitor's hand

Head of Iranian delegation was also dismissed

Iranian Mostafa Rajaei (R) shakes hands with Israeli weightlifter Maksim Svirsky at a World Masters championship in Wieliczka, Poland, Aug. 26, 2023 (Photo: Screenshot)

A weightlifting athlete from Iran was banned for life by the Iranian regime after he shook the hand of his Israeli competitor at a tournament in Poland, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday.

“The weightlifting federation 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,” according to a statement cited by the IRNA state news agency and the Times of Israel.

Rajaei was seen shaking hands with Israeli weightlifter Maksim Svirsky at the World Masters tournament after the Iranian athlete finished second and Svirsky came in third place at the competition.

“The positions of the federation are aligned with the positions of the holy establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the weightlifting federation said, adding that Rajaei was banned from entering “all sports facilities” for the rest of his life, Al Jazeera reported.

“In addition to apologizing to the leader of the revolution, the families of martyrs and all the people of Iran, I promise we will certainly never witness incidents like this in the weightlifting family,” Federation Chief Sajad Anoushiravani added.

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

The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize the Jewish state and prohibits contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes, which sometimes leads to Iranian athletes being forced to forfeit competitions.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei barred Iranian athletes from shaking the hands of Israelis at official medal ceremonies, even if not directly competing against an athlete from the Jewish state.

The policy has earned Iran some criticism and has even resulted in the regime being banned from certain athletic games, including in 2021, when the International Judo Federation imposed a four-year suspension on the Islamic nation over “repeated and severe breaches” of the IJF statutes and values of Olympism; namely excellence, friendship and respect.

A number of Iranian athletes have defected because of pressure from the authorities, with some athletes going on to receive foreign citizenship and competing in their former disciplines under a new flag.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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