Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel
TEHRAN - Iran's wrestling federation said late Friday it would protest a decision to ban one of its athletes and the national coach for deliberately throwing a match to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent.
Alireza Karimi Mashiani threw a match against his Russian opponent in the under-23 world championships in Poland in November to avoid fighting Israel's Uri Kalashnikov in the next round.
The Islamic republic does not recognise the Jewish state, placing it in the same "Great Satan" category as the United States, and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.
On Friday, the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber banned Karimi Mashiani from competition for six months, and banned his coach Hamidreza Jamshidi for two years.
"The federation will protest the verdict," Iran Wrestling Federation president Rasoul Khadem said on state television.
Khadem blamed the ban on pressure from the International Olympic Committee, which he said was itself "under the influence of big political and economic powers of the world".
"During his six-month ban, Karimi Mashiani can take part in domestic competitions and in the final stage of the national team selection.
"His ban will be over before the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games and the World Championship," Khadem added.
Karimi Mashiani threw his quarter-final bout against Russian Alikhan Zhabrayilov in the under-86 kilogramme freestyle contest.
Footage shows him leading in the match until his coach starts shouting "Alireza, lose" from the sidelines.
Karimi Mashiani then repeatedly rolled over to hand his opponent a dozen points and victory.
He also refused to take the mat against an Israeli opponent at the World Championships in Hungary in 2013.
The United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber found that Karimi Mashiani "on instruction of his coach Jamshidi, wilfully lost his quarter finals match against Alikhan Zhabrayilov".
"Both wrestler and coach were found to have acted in direct violation of the International Wrestling Rules and the UWW Disciplinary Regulations," it said in a statement.
Iran said it had fought for months to limit the impact of the decision and reduce the proposed fine.
A statement from the Iran Wrestling Federation on its website said such situations were bound to recur and be even "more serious and complicated" in future.
"It is hoped that a solution is thought of by competent authorities for resolving this issue."