In what I believe is a first, a sporting body has actually punished an Arab or Muslim who refused to compete against an Israeli.
Wrestling’s global sporting body has banned an Iranian athlete for six months for deliberately throwing a match to avoid an Israeli opponent.
Alireza Karimachiani was winning a match against his Russian opponent in November’s under-23 world championships when his coach ordered him to lose.
If he had won, he would have faced an Israeli athlete in the next round.
Iran does not recognise the state of Israel and bans its athletes from competing against Israelis.
Iran’s wrestling federation has said it will challenge the ban, which was announced by the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber on Friday.
“Karimachiani, on instruction of his coach Jamshidi, wilfully lost his 1/8 finals match against Alikhan Zhabrilov,” the chamber said, referring to the Russian opponent in the match.
“Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules… and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations,” it added.
Karimachiani’s ban was set to run for two years from the date of the incident – making him eligible to compete in late May 2018.
His coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, was also banned from the sport until the end of November 2019.
During the November 2017 match-up in Poland, Karimachiani was leading 3-2 in the fourth minute of the match.
Winning would have set him up against Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov in the next bout.
Footage of the match appeared to contain a man’s voice shouting instructions to lose, before the match is briefly paused for an exchange between athlete and coach.
In the final 45 seconds, Karimachiani is tackled to the ground before he rolls over and over, resulting in his opponent winning 14-3.
You can see him throwing the match here:
Unlike their wrestler, the Iranian Wrestling Federation does not plan on rolling over.
“The federation will protest the verdict,” Iran Wrestling Federation president Rasoul Khadem said on state television.
Khadem blamed the ban on pressure from the International Olympic Committee, which he said was itself “under the influence of big political and economic powers of the world.”
No prizes for guessing who the Iranians are referring to here.