Iranian Wrestling Official Claims He Was Forced to Resign After Opposing Ban on Israel

After publicly countering anti-Israel policy and stating that 'forcing an athlete to accept defeat is not right,' Rasoul Khadem, who headed the Iranian Wrestling Federation, leaves his position

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

The head of Iran's wrestling federation announced his surprising resignation on Wednesday a mere two months after he was re-elected, the BBC reported Thursday.

Rasoul Khadem, who is an Olympic gold medalist, vacated his post at the Iranian Wrestling Federation after criticizing Iranian authorities for allowing athletes to be punished due to Tehran's ban on players competing against Israeli opponents.

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In a post he published on the Iranian Wrestling Federation's official website, Khadem suggested that he didn't leave his position voluntarily but was rather forced to leave due to his stance on Israeli opponents, which contradicts Iran's adamant opposition to playing against Israelis as part of its refusal to recognize the State of Israel.

According to the BBC, other council members also left the organization in the wake of Khadem's departure.

The Iranian Students News Agency (INSA) reported that after Khadem gave notice of his resignation, the councils for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling announced that they were all going to resign.

INSA quoted a member of the wrestling committee as saying that "Khadem has sacrificed himself for wrestling and since he has stepped down, there is no point for us to remain in our post."  

"Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor's note is not right," Khadem had charged earlier this month, and followed his statement by calling for a "fundamental solution" to the issue.

One example for the ban imposed on Iranian athletes that Khadem has protested against is the case of wrestler Alireza Karimachiani, who was banned for six months after throwing a match to avoid an Israeli opponent in 2017.

Karimachiani was about to win a match in the under-23 world championships when his coach ordered him to lose, the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber said at the time.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei extolled Karimachiani for throwing the bout in a statement released in December.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, dozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israeli athletes,