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Iranian Weightlifter Gets Lifetime Ban for Friendly Gesture

The Iran Weightlifting Federation (IRIWF) has taken drastic action against Mostafa Rajaei, imposing a lifelong ban on him for a seemingly innocent act of shaking hands with an Israeli athlete during the World Masters Championships held in Krakow.

Rajaei, who secured a commendable second place in his weightlifting category, found himself on the podium adorned with the Iranian flag. However, it was his friendly exchange with Israel’s Maksim Svirsky, who clinched the third position, that triggered the controversy.

The photograph capturing the handshake and conversation between the two athletes ignited swift and intense condemnation from both the IRIWF and the Iranian government. The act goes against the government’s longstanding policy of prohibiting direct engagement between its citizens and Israelis in the realm of sports.

The IRIWF did not mince words in its criticism of Rajaei’s actions, labeling them as an “unforgivable” breach of conduct. In a statement, the federation underlined its unwavering alignment with the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran, further explaining that Rajaei would henceforth be forbidden from accessing “all sports facilities” for the remainder of his life.

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Following this incident, Hamid Salehinia, the leader of the delegation in Poland, faced similar consequences as he was dismissed from his position. The federation also dissolved a committee dedicated to representing veteran weightlifters.

IRIWF President Sajad Anoushiravani expressed his views on the matter, stating, “In addition to offering my sincere apologies to the leader of our nation, the families of our martyrs, and every citizen of Iran, I assure you that occurrences like this will not mar the spirit of camaraderie within our weightlifting family.”

In an Instagram post following the championships, Rajaei extended gratitude to “all those who supported me throughout my journey.” However, he refrained from addressing the handshake incident or his subsequent ban in his statement.

It is important to note that Iran’s government officially denies the existence of Israel as a sovereign nation and habitually issues statements denouncing it. Iranian athletes have long been subjected to governmental restrictions that bar them from engaging in competitions against Israeli opponents.

This incident is reminiscent of the 2021 suspension imposed on Iran by the International Judo Federation. The suspension, spanning four years, was enacted after it was revealed that Saeid Mollaei had been coerced into withdrawing from the 2019 World Championships to avoid competing against an Israeli rival.

Saeid Mollaei, a reigning champion in the men’s under-81-kilograms category, was slated to face off against Israel’s Sagi Muki in the finals. However, he alleges that he was instructed to forfeit the match. Post-event, Mollaei sought asylum in Germany.

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Tanya Shaiko

Author: Tanya Shaiko
News Editor, Olympic Lifting Enthusiast

Oly Lifting Experience: 6 years
Best ResultsSnatch – 61 kg,
C&J – 78 kg

I’m Tanya, and I just can’t do without fitness. About six years ago, I got into Olympic weightlifting and instantly fell in love with it. Weightlifting is like no other sport – it’s just you versus the bar. Driven by my unwavering passion for an active lifestyle, I’ve been eager to share my personal journey and sports enthusiasm with others. As a journalist and photographer, my interests come full circle, adding an extra dimension to the news column that I curate. This way, I keep my readers updated with the latest happenings in the sports world.

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