An Iranian professional weightlifter received a lifetime ban from competing after shaking the hand of an Israeli athlete during an international competition, according to an Iranian state news agency.
Weightlifting champion Mostafa Rajaee, 36, was filmed shaking hands and posing for a picture with Israel’s Maksim Svirsky at the World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland this week, according to a video published by Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA Wednesday.
Rajaee, who won the silver medal at the competition, was banned for life from all sports for actions described by the head of Iran’s weightlifting federation as “unacceptable and unforgivable.”
The head of the expedition, Hamid Salehinia, was also removed from his position, state outlet Tasnim reported.
In an Instagram post after the event, Rajaee thanked “everyone who helped me along the way [for finishing second]” but did not comment on either the handshake or his subsequent ban.
Iran does not recognize Israel as a country and regularly issues hostile statements, while Iranian athletes have long been prohibited by the government from competing against Israelis.
The International Judo Federation suspended Iran in 2021 from competing for four years after it was revealed that Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei was ordered to withdraw from the 2019 World Judo Championships to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.
Mollaei, the defending 81-kilogram champion, was on course to meet Israel’s Sagi Muki in the final, but he claims he was instructed to withdraw ahead of his third-round match and again before the semifinal, in which he lost to eventual champion Matthias Casse of Belgium.
After the event, Mollaei traveled to Germany to seek asylum.
Additionally, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) told the Iranian Chess Federation in 2020 to state its position on competing against Israeli athletes, after repeated cases where Iranian athletes “refused to participate in games with Israeli citizens.”
“In some cases, comments were even received, that such games were ignored intentionally for political and ideological reasons,” the letter said according to FIDE.
CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi contributed to this report.
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