Weightlifter Gets Lifetime Ban Over This Handshake

Iran's Weightlifting Federation said warm encounter with Israeli was 'unforgivable'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2023 12:58 PM CDT

Most sports organizations would view the shaking of an opponent's hand as sportsmanship, something to be applauded. Not Iran's Weightlifting Federation. The body has banned weightlifter Mostafa Rajaee, a former member of the Iranian national team, from competing in any sport for life after he shook the hand of an Israeli opponent at the World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland on Saturday, per CNN and the BBC. Rajaee, who won the silver medal at the non-professional competition, was filmed shaking hands and posing for a photo with Israel's Maksim Svirsky, who placed third, after they left the podium. It was a move Iran's Weightlifting Federation described as "unacceptable and unforgivable."

Iran doesn't recognize Israel as a country and prohibits Iranians from competing against Israelis in sports ranging from judo to chess, per CNN. "As a result, Iranian athletes often withdraw from competitions or fake injuries to avoid interacting with athletes from Israel," per USA Today. Others have defected. The Weightlifting Federation said it "strongly condemns the action of the veteran weightlifter" which "is against the ideals of the Islamic Republic of Iran," according to a Wednesday statement, per the Jerusalem Post. It said "the fight against the usurping Zionist regime and its supporters is one of the main pillars of the [republic's] strategic policy."

The federation also disbanded the committee for veteran weightlifters and fired Hamid Salehinia, the head of the Iranian delegation to the competition, per the Post. "After further investigations, serious and decisive action will be taken against all the wrongdoers," it said. Following the event, Rajaee thanked "everyone who helped me along the way" to his second-place finish in an Instagram post but made no mention of the ban or the events that led up to it. Svirsky said he was "shocked" by the outcome, per the Post. "It's just stupid," he told Ynet. "It's a shame that politics is brought into sports," he added. Shaking hands "is the basic thing to do." (More Iran stories.)

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