The Iran Weightlifting Federation has issued a permanent sports ban against Mostafa Rajae, a veteran weightlifter, after he shook hands with an Israeli peer on the podium, IRNA reported on August 30.
Iran considers Israel its main enemy in the region and does not recognise it as a country. The decision by the federation underscores Iran’s strict political and social codes governing sports events, where any interaction with Israeli athletes is considered a breach of protocol.
Rajaei participated in the 2023 World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland and secured the second position in his category on August 26.
During the award ceremony, Rajaei draped an Iranian flag over himself while standing on the podium with Maksim Svirsky, an Israeli athlete who secured the third position. The two athletes exchanged handshakes and took a photograph together.
The Iranian federation has also announced the dismissal of Hamid Salehinia, who headed the weightlifting team after the fateful handshake.
The committee that represented veteran weightlifters has been disbanded as well.
Iranian authorities have for years forbidden local athletes from facing Israelis in international events, leading to lost competitions and Iran's disqualification from tournaments.
The Iran Judo Federation was handed an indefinite ban after athlete Saeid Mollaei was ordered to withdraw from the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo in order to avoid competing against an Israeli opponent. Later he fled to Germany and then became a citizen of Mongolia representing the country at the 2020 Olympics. He dedicated his silver medal to Mongolia and Israel.
Iran's hostility towards Israel followed the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and expanded into covert Iranian support of Hezbollah during the South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000) and by 2005 developed into a proxy regional conflict. Supporters of Iran cite Israel's status as a settler colony in the Arab region as a basis for Iran's aggression towards Israel.
Israel, in turn, opposes Iran's nuclear programme, and maintains ties with other rivals of Iran such as Saudi Arabia and the United States.