The rivalry between Israel's two leading windsurfers, Shahar Zubari and Nimrod Mashiah, entered a new and potentially fateful phase on Tuesday, when a panel of three officials from the International Sailing Federation ruled that Mashiah was guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct for having blocked Zubari in the medals race of last month's European Championship.
Zubari entered the final race in third place. Mashiah blocked his wind so he would not win the bronze and gain a significant lead in the competition for Israel's lone spot at the 2012 London Olympics. Zubari appealed to the international governing body, charging that one of the two times Mashiah blocked him had nothing to do with the race.
The officials concurred that Mashiah's antics were a blatant violation of the rules of behavior and rejected his defense that he had experienced an equipment malfunction.
The decision about Mashiah's punishment is now in the hands of Israel's sailing federation.
The chairman of the federation, Yehuda Maayan, has until tomorrow to determine Mashiah's fate. The options are a simple reprimand, awarding points to Zubari as if he had won bronze or banning Mashiah from November's World Championships.
Preventing Mashiah from next month's competition would likely be a mortal blow to his chances of qualifying for London over Zubari.
"A lot of power was put into our hands at the federation," said professional director Gur Steinberg. "It goes against the philosophy that guides us, but it's the reality we have to deal with."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now