Iranian Wrestler Temporarily Banned After Intentional Loss to Avoid Israeli Opponent

Iran's youth and sports ministry is hailing the wrestler a hero, even though his decision resulted in suspension from international competitions

J'den Michael Tbory Cox (U.S.) wrestles with Alireza Mohammad Karimi-Mashiani (Iran) during the wrestling event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

An Iranian wrestler who intentionally lost at an international competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent was suspended from competition for six months by the world wrestling body.

The decision to ban Alireza Karimi-Mashiani was announced Friday by The United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber.

His coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, also is banned from the sport for two years for instructing his wrestler to lose.

At the time, Karimi-Mashiani said his coach forced him to lose the match.

“Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules (Article 15) and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations (Articles 3, 7.2, 9.2),” the statement said.

Days after the match, Karimi-Mashiani said he had not withdrawn from the United World Wrestling championship for under-23 tournament ahead of time because his coaches believed that the Israeli 
competitor, Uri Kalashnikov, would be defeated in the first round. The tournament took place in November 2017 in Poland.

He was winning decisively in the middle of his match against Russia’s Alikhan Zabrailov, when his coach began calling on him to lose the bout, according to video footage of the match. His coach called for a break in the match to talk to his wrestler, who then lost.

Zabrailov took the gold medal that the Iranian was favored to win. Kalashnikov won bronze in the competition.

Iran does not recognize the State of Israel and forbids its athletes from competing against Israelis at international sports events.

“Your noble and heroic action in the world competition in Poland, abandoning the medal and the podium in support of the highest human values, is a source of pride and praise,” an official statement on the website of Iran’s youth and sports ministry said, AFP reported.

The Iran Wrestling Federation said it would contest the ban and called on world wrestling to find a permanent solution to such incidents.