(March 4, 2018 / JNS) The new head of Iran’s wrestling federation resigned last week after criticizing authorities for forcing athletes to concoct lies so as not to face Israeli opponents.
In a show of solidarity, the councils for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling all resigned along with Rasoul Khadem, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency.
Khadem had recently criticized Iranian authorities for forcing the country’s athletes and coaches to concoct lies and excuses to lose matches in order to avoid competing with Israelis. He argued that the Iranian teams should just state openly that they refuse to engage in sportsmanlike conduct with Israelis.
“If we must continue with the policy of noncompetition against the Zionist regime’s athletes, the responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of the coach and the athlete,” he said on public radio, according to ISNA. “Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right.”
The move follows several recent instances of Iranian wrestlers and coaches intentionally throwing matches, as well as a case of intentional sudden weight gain, in order not to have to compete with Israelis. The athletes and their coaches were banned from competition from six months to two years by the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber.
Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement on his website in December praising the athletes, saying: “I truly feel proud of such behavior that shows a young man, among our nation, is ready to sacrifice his desires and his right to earn a championship for the sake of a great, high goal.”