Boxing ring (illustration)
Boxing ring (illustration)iStock

A boxer from Syria bowed out of a qualifying round for the Olympics because he would have had to face off against an Israeli contender, Haaretz reported Sunday.

The Syrian boxer, Ala Ghasoun, had been scheduled to vie against Israel's Artium Musley. Since Ghasoun refused the match, Musley will be automatically moved to the next round in the qualifiers taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The contest is mandatory qualifier to compete in the Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro in August, noted Haaretz.

"I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people," Ghasoun was quoted as telling Arab media.

"If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel," he said.

Ghasoun added that "the decision to quit was not mine" but mandated by senior Syrian officials and the Syrian Sports Federation.

Muslim countries often boycott Israel at international competitions as they do not recognize the Jewish state. More often than not, they pay for it with penalties.

In 2010, an Iranian contestant withdrew from a Taekwondo match against Israel’s Gili Haimovitz, who won a gold medal by default.

Iranian officials claimed that Soleimani had been injured and was so ill that he could not even stand on the podium with Haimovitz for the awards ceremony, while Israel accused the Iranian team of withdrawing for political reasons.

Another example was in 2014, when the president of the Sudanese Chess Association resigned following a game of chess that took place against an Israeli player at the World Youth Chess Championships in South Africa.