Iranian Weightlifter Banned From Sport For Life After Taking Photo With Israeli Competitor – Forbes


Iranian weightlifter Mostafa Rajai was given a lifetime ban by the Iran Weightlifting Federation for speaking to and taking a photo with an Israeli competitor, according to multiple news organizations, marking the latest instance of geopolitics interfering with sports.

Key Facts

Rajai and Israeli counterpart Maksim Svirsky were photographed and seen chatting after their competition at the 2023 World Masters Weightlifting Championships Saturday.

The Iran Weightlifting Federation reportedly called this an “unforgivable” transgression and has forbidden Rajai from entering all sports facilities in the country for life.

Iran has laws that forbid athletes from competing against Israelis and to abide by this rule, many Iranian athletes will intentionally throw games or fake injuries to avoid a matchup with Israeli opponents.

Hamid Salehinia, head of the team, was also fired as a result of the incident.

Forbes has reached out to both the Israeli and Iranian weightlifting federations for comment.

Key Background

Iran does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state, and multiple Iranian leaders have called for the state of Israel to be dismantled and have threatened military action against the country. Israel has pushed back against Iran’s apparent nuclear ambitions, while Iran has criticized Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians—whom Israel is locked into a decades-long bloody conflict with—and provides support to insurgent group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States.

Surprising Fact

This isn’t the first conflict to erupt due to Iran’s policy of forbidding competition with Israel: The International Judo Federation banned Iran from the sport for four years in 2021 due to the policy. Athletes from other countries have also dealt with tensions due to geopolitical conflicts. In 2022, the Wimbledon Tennis Championship banned Russian and Belarussian players because of the invasion of Ukraine. In tennis tournaments where Russians and Belarussians have competed, Ukrainian players like Elina Svitolina have refused to shake their hands after the match. At the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to form official Olympic teams, though individual athletes will be able to compete as neutral athletes.


Rajai and Svirsky both competed well at the weightlifting championships, earning silver and bronze medals respectively, though they were competing in a non-professional competition for “legends” of the sport.

Further Reading

Iran: Weightlifter Mostafa Rajai banned for photo with Israeli (BBC)

Iran bans weightlifter for life after he shakes Israeli’s hand on podium (Al Jazeera)

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