Iran’s athletes could face “grave consequences” over the ban on competing against Israelis, the ousted head of the country’s Wrestling Federation said. Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato.
One of Iran’s leading sports officials has apparently been forced out of his post after criticizing the Tehran regime’s ban on Iranian athletes competing against their Israeli counterparts.
According to the official government news outlet The Tehran Times, Iran Wrestling Federation President Rasoul Khadem “announced his retirement” on Wednesday. The paper noted pointedly that “Khadem said authorities should reconsider their policy of not allowing Iranian athletes to compete against Israelis.”
An Olympic gold medallist, Khadem was re-elected as the Iranian Wrestling Federation head only two months ago. On Feb. 23, the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber (WWDC) banned Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi from competition for six months, and his coach Hamidreza Jamshidi for two years, for deliberately throwing a match in November 2017 in order to avoid an Israeli opponent in a subsequent round. Video of the bout caught Jamshidi telling Karimi from the sidelines, “Alireza, lose! You must lose, Alireza!”
Following the WWDC decision, Khadem called for a “fundamental solution” to the Israel ban in a Feb. 26 interview with Radio Tehran, arguing that “forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right.”
Warning of the “grave consequences” for Iran’s athletes of the ban – the first time Iran has been penalized by a sporting body for boycotting Israel – Khadem appeared to ridicule the policy. “Nobody, save Israelis, is aware of the reason why Iranian athletes deliberately lose against their Israeli peers,” he said.
Khadem added that the policy made no sense in terms of Iran’s own interests. Claiming that most of the athletes competing under the Israeli flag in judo and wrestling competitions are foreigners rather than citizens of Israel, he alleged that “Israel employs these athletes and provides them with temporary passports to compete in international sports events to disrupt the Islamic Republic’s agenda.”
As the elimination of the State of Israel is a formal goal of the Iranian regime, any policy change on the sporting front is unlikely. The Secretary-General of the Islamic Republic’s National Olympic Committee, Shahrokh Shahnazi, said in a television interview this month that Iran “does not recognize Israel, and Iranian athletes will never compete with an Israeli or participate in a medal ceremony where an Israeli is present.”
“We should argue that since Israelis are criminals, our athletes will never compete with them,” Shahnazi continued. “We should also insist that our position against Israelis has got nothing to do with politics.”