ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – An Iranian wrestler has been banned for six months after he was found guilty of throwing a fight to avoid competing against an Israeli opponent, the world wrestling governing body said on Friday.
Freestyle wrestler Alireza Karimi, 23, has been found “in direct violation” of regulations for purposefully throwing a match last year, United World Wrestling (UWW) said in an official statement.
The incident occurred during the quarterfinals of the U-23 World Championship in Poland in November 2017 where Karimi intentionally lost to a Russian competitor.
UWW also banned the 23-year-old’s coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, “for instructing his wrestler to lose so he would not face Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov in the following round.”
“The chamber found that [Karimi], on the instruction of his coach Jamshidi, willfully lost his quarterfinals match against Alikhan Zhabrayilov,” the UWW statement said.
“Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations,” it added.
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 have a history of tension which extends to several fronts including sports. After the incident in November, the Iranian government reportedly praised Karimi for his “noble and heroic action,” the Times of Israel reported.
However, the 23-year-old told Iranian media he was upset for having to forfeit an opportunity to win a gold medal.
“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’s wrestling federation has said it will likely appeal the ban as the country’s national team also faces the possibility of a one-year ban from international competitions.
In the past, many Iranian athletes have been encouraged to avoid Israelis in sporting competitions, even if it means disqualification.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an Iranian swimmer refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli.
At the 2004 Athens Games, an Iranian judoka athlete was disqualified when he refused to face an Israeli.