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Iranian weightlifter bans for life over handshake with Israeli athlete

After shaking hands with an Israeli competitor at a competition in Poland, an Iranian weightlifter was given a lifelong ban by officials in the Islamic republic, according to state media.

At a World Masters competition in Wieliczka, Poland, on Saturday, Israeli weightlifter Maksim Svirsky and Mostafa Rajaei, both in their 40s, shook hands after taking the top two spots.

“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,” the body announced in a statement cited by state news agency IRNA.

Iran does not recognise Israel, its sworn enemy, and prohibits all contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes.

According to the IRNA report, Rajaei “crossed the red lines of the Islamic republic” at the event where the Iranian delegation had been “sent with the support of the federation”.

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

In 2021, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged athletes “not to shake hands with a representative of the (Israeli) criminal regime to obtain a medal”.

Iranian athletes have avoided competing against Israeli competitors for years, frequently by being disqualified or presenting documents attesting to their illness.

Alireza Firouzja, a young chess prodigy, departed Iran because the nation’s chess federation forbade him from competing in the 2019 world championship for fear of playing an Israeli opponent. He has now acquired French citizenship.

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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