Iran Bans Weightlifter for Life After He Took a Photo with an Israeli Opponent

Iran’s athlete delegation at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. (Lu Lin/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images via

Jacob Gurvis

Iran’s weightlifting federation banned one of its athletes for life after he shook hands and posed for a photo with an Israeli athlete at an international competition in Poland.

Mostafa Rajaei finished second in his category at the 2023 World Master Weightlifting Championships on Saturday. Rajaei, standing on the podium wrapped in an Iranian flag, shook hands and took a picture with Israeli Maksim Svirsky, who finished third.

“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,” Iran’s weightlifting federation said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

Iran, whose leaders regularly call for violence against Israel, forbids its athletes from competing against Israelis, including at the Olympics. Iranian athletes have previously forfeited or cited medical complications in efforts to avoid facing against Israeli athletes.


“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 head Sajad Anoushiravani said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera.

In 2019, the International Judo Federation banned Iran from all international competitions in the sport over its policy toward Israeli athletes. But after an appeal, the ban was reduced to four years and is set to expire next month.

The punishment stemmed from the treatment of Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who said he was ordered to throw matches to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki at the World Judo Championships in 2019. Muki ultimately won the tournament, and Mollaei stopped competing for Iran. (Mollaei visited Israel in 2021 for a judo competition, where he competed under the Mongolian flag.)

In 2018, the head of Iran’s wrestling federation resigned over the country’s policy of forcing its athletes to forfeit matches against Israeli opponents. In 2010, the head of foreign relations for Iran’s soccer federation resigned after his office accidentally included Israel in its New Year’s greeting cards.


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