Iranian authorities have suspended weightlifter Mostafa Rajai for life after shaking hands with an Israeli athlete during a sports tournament in Poland.
“The weightlifting federation banned Rajai for life from entering all sports facilities in the country and dismissed the head of the competition’s delegation, Hamid Salhinya,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
Rajai, 40, shook hands with Israeli weightlifter Maxim Sverisky on Saturday after they stood on the podium at the World Masters in Wieliczka, Poland.
Iran does not recognize Israel and prohibits any contact between athletes in the two countries.
According to IRNA, weightlifter Mostafa Rajai “crossed the red lines of the Islamic Republic.”
Rajai was a former member of the Iranian national team and represented Iran at several sporting events, most notably the 2015 Asian Weightlifting Championship in Thailand.
In 2021, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged athletes “not to shake hands with the representative of the criminal regime for a medal.”
For years, Iranian athletes have avoided meeting Israelis in competition by excluding themselves or presenting medical certificates of unfitness.
Despite normalization between several Middle Eastern countries and Israel, many athletes from the region refuse to compete against Israeli athletes in solidarity with the Palestine.