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Iranian Wrestling Officials Quit Over Israel Policy


Wrestling is a very popular sport in Iran, where dozens of athletes have boycotted competitions against Israelis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The head of Iran's wrestling federation has resigned after criticizing the authorities for letting athletes be punished because of the country's ban on facing Israeli opponents.

In a letter published on the federation's website on February 28, Rasoul Khadem suggested he had been forced from his post, saying that "apparently it is not going to work out" because of "my awkward mentality."

"I cannot lie. Sometimes the best way to take a stand is not to stand," he also wrote.

Khadem, an Olympic gold medalist, was reelected as president of the wrestling federation two months ago.

After news of Khadem's resignation, the councils for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling said they were resigning en masse, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

Iran does not recognize the state of Israel and bans its athletes from competing against Israelis.

The United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber last month banned Iran's Alireza Karimi Mashiani for six months for throwing a match to avoid an Israeli opponent in November 2017. His coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, was banned for two years.

Following the decision, Khadem criticized Iran's authorities for their approach to competing against Israeli opponents.

"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," ISNA quoted Khadem as saying on public radio.

Khadem called for a "fundamental solution" to the problem, saying that "forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor's note is not right."

"We are not prepared to work under these circumstances," Ebrahim Javadi, a member of Iran's freestyle council, told ISNA.

Iranian officials "must announce to international bodies whatever decision they make and make things clear so that we are no longer forced to lie," Javadi also said.

Wrestling is a very popular sport in Iran, where dozens of athletes have boycotted competitions against Israelis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

With reporting by AFP and the BBC
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