The world wrestling governing body has banned an Iranian athlete for six months for deliberately throwing a match last year to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.
The United World Wrestling in a statement on Friday said that Alireza Karimi violated regulations when he intentionally lost to a Russian competitor in the quarter final of the U-23 World Championship in Poland last November.
Karimi’s coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, was also banned from the sport for two years for instructing his wrestler to lose so he would not face Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov in the following round.
“The chamber found that Karimachiani, on instruction of his coach Jamshidi, willfully lost his quarter finals match against Alikhan Zhabrayilov,” a UWW statement said according to sports news site Inside The Games.
“Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations,” it said.
Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi about to beat Russian, but will have to face Israeli next round. His coach his calling him from the sidelines, telling him to “lose.” Iran forbids its athletes to play Israeli’s. Iranian wrestler gives up. pic.twitter.com/nX9KHaH8Jn
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) November 27, 2017
Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and Iranian athletes traditionally refrain from competing against Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.
Iran’s government paid tribute to Karimi, praising him for his “noble and heroic action” and calling him “a source of pride and praise,” while the country’s wrestling federation called him a “hero” and extolled his “sacrifice.”
But Karimi told Iranian media after the incident that he was devastated to lose when he was well ahead of Zabrailov.
“I tried hard for months to get the world gold medal,” he said. “Achieving a world medal is the only happiness for any of us. In a moment, my whole world seemed to come to an end.”
Iran has had a long-time policy of avoiding Israelis in athletic competitions, frequently at the expense of its own competitors. An Iranian swimmer refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli at the Beijing Olympics and in the 2004 Athens Games, an Iranian judoka refused to face an Israeli, resulting in his disqualification.
The last competition between Iranian and Israeli teams on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Occasionally, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played Israeli teams. In August, Tehran criticized two Iranian soccer players who play for a Greek team for participating in a match against an Israeli team.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli terrorist groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.