The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is investigating claims that Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun withdrew from last month’s Olympic qualification tournament in Azerbaijan because he was due to face an Israeli opponent, insidethegames has been told.
Welterweight Ghasoun had been drawn against Artium Musley in the first round but pulled out before the bout, effectively ending his chances of competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
AIBA claimed the withdrawal was caused by Ghasoun being over the weight at the weigh-in but the boxer told Arab media that it was down to the nationality of his challenger.
Ghasoun had insisted the Syrian Boxing Federation made the call and that the decision not to compete in the match was “not mine”.
“I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people,” Ghasoun was quoted as saying.
“If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognise the state of Israel.”
If the accusations are proven, the SBF and Ghasoun could face sanctions from AIBA.
World boxing’s governing body confirmed to insidethegames that “he was pulled out of the tournament because he was overweight at the weigh-in” but that they would investigate the comments made by Ghasoun.
“We are looking into the claimed statements and will take action if need be but the reason for his pull out is a sporting one at this stage,” a spokesperson for AIBA told insidethegames.
Athletes from Muslim countries often refuse to compete against Israel because they do not recognise the Jewish state amid ongoing political conflict.
Tunisia's tennis team were given a one-year ban from the 2014 Davis Cup after one of their players was ordered not to compete in a match against an Israeli opponent in November 2013.
Malek Jaziri was told not to participate in his quarter-final clash against Israeli opponent Amir Weintraub at the Tashkent Challenger.
Earlier that year, the International Swimming Federation warned organisers of the Dubai World Cup after Israeli athletes were negatively treated at both events.
Israel's name and flag appeared to be censored in pre-race introductions and television broadcasts while swimmers from the country were ignored in coverage.
Other examples include when Israeli taekwondo player Gili Haimovitz won gold after his Iranian opponent, Mohammed Soleimani, withdrew from their contest at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
Officials from Iran claimed it was due to an illness but Israel responded by accusing them of pulling out for political reasons.
Iran was also forced to deny suggestions athletes from the nation would boycott competitions against Israelis at the London 2012 Olympic Games.