Iran Protests Ban On Wrestler Who Boycotted Israeli Opponent

Turkey's Taha Akgul, right, competes against Iran's Komeil Nemat Ghasemi, left, during the men's 125-kg freestyle wrestling gold medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
AP/Petr David Josek)

TEL AVIV — Iran’s wrestling federation announced Saturday that it will protest a decision to ban one of its contenders and the national coach for deliberately throwing a match in order to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Karimi Mashiani was winning a match against his Russian opponent in the under-23 world championships in Poland in November when his coach told him to lose to avoid fighting Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov in the next round. Footage from the match shows his coach Hamidreza Jamshidi standing in the sidelines and shouting, “Alireza, lose!”

Iran does not recognize Israel and bans its sportsmen from competing against Israelis. The Iranian government hailed Mashiani’s move as “noble and heroic.”

On Friday, the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber banned Mashiani from competition for six months and his coach for two years, AFP reported.

The United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber found that Mashiani “on instruction of his coach Jamshidi, wilfully lost his quarter finals match.”

“Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations,” it said in a statement.

Iran Wrestling Federation president Rasoul Khadem said in response that the federation will “protest the verdict.”

He added that the ban was the result of pressure from the International Olympic Committee, which he said was “under the influence of big political and economic powers of the world.”

“During his six-month ban, Karimi Mashiani can take part in domestic competitions and in the final stage of the national team selection. His ban will be over before the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games and the World Championship,” Khadem added.

In 2013’s World Championships in Hungary, Mashiani again refused to compete against an Israeli opponent.

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