Iran has banned a weightlifter from sports for life and disbanded a sports committee after the athlete greeted an Israeli counterpart on a podium.
Veteran weightlifter Mostafa Rajaei placed second in his division at the 2023 World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland on Saturday while standing on a podium with an Iranian flag wrapped around him.
The third-place finisher, Israeli Maksim Svirsky, was seated on a different step of the podium.
The Iran Weightlifting Federation banned Rajaei from all sports for life after the two sportsmen shook hands and posed for a photo, calling it a “unforgivable” transgression.
“The positions of the federation are aligned with the positions of the holy establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” it said, adding that Rajaei has been banned from entering “all sports facilities” for the rest of his life.
Hamid Salehinia, who headed the weightlifting team, was also removed from his post, and the federation said a committee formed to represent veteran weightlifters has been dissolved as well.
“In addition to apologising to the leader of the revolution, the families of martyrs and all the people of Iran, I promise we will certainly never witness incidents like this in the weightlifting family,” federation chief Sajad Anoushiravani said in a statement.
The weightlifting championships in Krakow drew more than 1,000 athletes from 47 different nations, according to the organizers.
Iran strongly restricts any interaction between Iranian and Israeli athletes and does not recognize Israel as a nation.
Iranian athletes have consistently withdrawn from contests or been disqualified from events due to injury over the years because they have refused to compete against Israeli athletes.
Over its refusal to allow its athletes to compete against Israelis, the nation has also come under fire and has received certain bans.
Iran was suspended for four years in 2021 by the world governing organization of judo due to the problem.
Due to pressure from the government, a number of Iranian athletes have defected.
Among them was Alireza Firouzja, a chess prodigy who left Iran after the sports federation banned him from playing in the 2019 world championship due to concerns that he could face an Israeli opponent. Firouzja now plays under the French flag.