Costly gesture: Iranian weightlifter banned for life for shaking Israeli's hand

Maksim Svirsky, an Israeli weightlifter, was photographed shaking hands with Iranian athlete Mostafa Rajaei; The incident sparked significant outrage in the Islamic Republic, leading to Rajaei's suspension and a lifetime ban on his involvement in any sports-related endeavors
Iranian weightlifter Mostafa Rajaei was given a lifetime ban from Iranian authorities after shaking hands with Israeli weightlifter Maksim Svirsky during a World Masters championship.
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The weightlifting federation in Iran issued the ban and dismissed the head of the delegation, Hamid Salehinia, following the incident, according to Iranian state media. The ban prevents Rajaei, who is in his 40s, from entering any sports facilities in the country.
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מרים המשקולות הישראלי מרסים סבירסקי על הפודיום עם מרים המשקולות האירני  מוטספה רג'אג'
מרים המשקולות הישראלי מרסים סבירסקי על הפודיום עם מרים המשקולות האירני  מוטספה רג'אג'
The photo that sparked outrage in Iran
(Photo: X)
Iran, which does not recognize Israel, prohibits contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes. Rajaei, a former member of the Iranian national team, represented his country at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in 2015.
In 2021, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, barred athletes from shaking hands with Israeli representatives who win medals. Iranian athletes have often managed to avoid competing against Israelis by either getting disqualified or providing medical certificates claiming they were unwell.
Chess prodigy Alireza Firouzja left Iran and became a naturalized French citizen after the sport's federation banned him from participating in the 2019 world championship to prevent him from facing an Israeli player.
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סעיד מולאי
סעיד מולאי
Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei faced pressure from Iranian authorities to to intentionally lose matches to avoid facing an Israeli opponent
(Photo: Oren Aharoni)
In a similar incident, Saeid Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, faced pressure from his country's authorities to intentionally lose matches to avoid facing an Israeli opponent at the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo.
Mollaei refused to comply. As the pressure mounted, he decided to leave the Iranian team and seek asylum in Germany to protect his family and career. Competing as a refugee under the International Olympic Committee's Refugee Olympic Team, Mollaei later obtained Mongolian citizenship in 2020, allowing him to continue his judo career under the Mongolian flag.
His case sparked a global conversation about the intersection of politics and sports, highlighting the challenges faced by athletes caught between personal aspirations and political agendas. Mollaei's courage and commitment to fair play were recognized with the Pierre de Coubertin Medal by the IOC, an honor given to those who embody Olympic values.
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