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Iran Ends Athlete's Career for Standing Next to Israeli

An Iranian athlete forced to stand next to Israel’s champion during the World Masters Weightlifting Championships has now forfeited his career.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 11/14/2010, 4:04 PM / Last Update: 11/14/2010, 4:29 PM

An Iranian athlete forced to stand next to Israel’s champion last month during the World Masters Weightlifting Championships in Poland has now forfeited his career, as has the head of his delegation.

The Iranian champion, Hossein Khodadadi, was the target of withering criticism from his own government authorities following the award ceremony for those in the 105 kilogram category for ages 35 to 39.

Khodadadi took his place as a silver medalist on the medals podium prior to the announcement that Israeli medalist Sergio Britva had won the gold. It was the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that an Iranian athlete had appeared beside an Israeli in an official championship.

The Iranian weightlifter said the team was not able to remove its flag from the hall, and that had he not attended the ceremony, the team would have been forced to return all the medals they had won on previous days. Furthermore, Iran would have been disqualified from future competitions.

To compensate, Khodadadi appeared in unofficial attire, and he declined to shake Britva’s hand when he extended it to his fellow athlete on the podium. Nevertheless, he stood respectfully during the playing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva.

Banned for Life

According to numerous Iranian media reports, both Khodadadi and Mir Rasool Raisi, head of the Iranian Delegation’s Weightlifting Team have paid a high price for their professionalism, having subsequently been banned by the Iranian government from all sport activities for life.

The ban was announced by Jalal Yahya-Zadeh, head of the Physical Education Committee for Youth Committee.

Yahya-Zadeh told Iranian media, “The fact that an Iranian weightlifting veteran has competed against an Israeli during the worldwide competitions and has stood beside him during the distribution of medals is unjustifiable. Unfortunately, those who supposedly had the primary responsibility in this regard did not see any problem in this matter, however, and did not see it fit to be distributed within the public, which itself is an obvious mistake on their end.”

Raisi allegedly said in prior remarks that all photos and CDs of the event had been destroyed by the Iranian expeditionary team, which apparently did not expect publicity of the incident to get out.

The committee said the Cultural Commissioners had been informed and the president had been alerted to the matter. It was not clear whether there would be further government retribution against the two professional athletes.