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    Iranian weightlifter Mostafa Rajai banned for photo with Israeli


    Aug 30, 2023

    TEHRAN — An Iranian weightlifter has been given a lifetime ban by Iran’s weightlifting federation after talking to and shaking hands with an Israeli participant at the World Masters Championship.

    Mostafa Rajai won silver at the event and was snapped on the podium standing next to the Israeli bronze medallist.

    Iran’s top weightlifting body later banned him from all sports facilities in the country for life. Iran’s authorities ban athletes from direct competition with Israelis.

    As a result, Iranian sportspersons often resort to various methods including throwing games or feigning injury to avoid match-ups.

    Rajai, 40, was draped in his country’s national flag as he stood next to Israeli athlete Maksim Svirsky on Saturday. The two were at a non-professional competition for the legends of weightlifting in Wieliczka, Poland.

    Rajai had previously represented Iran at the 2015 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Thailand and is a former member of the Iranian national team.

    State news agency Irna reported that he had “crossed the red lines of the Islamic republic”.

    Iran’s weightlifting federation also fired the head of the team at the contest, Hamid Salehinia, as a result of the incident.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, urged athletes not to shake hands with Israeli competitors in order to obtain a medal in 2021.

    Some Iranians have defected abroad as a result of the ban, refusing to put up with the restriction.

    Chess prodigy Alireza Firouzja left the country after he was banned from playing in in the 2019 world championship over concerns he would face an Israeli player. — BBC

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