Iranian activist Masih Alinejad has expressed support for the Ukrainian athlete who refused to shake hands with an Iranian competitor.
At the World Bench Press Championships in South Africa on Tuesday, Ukrainian powerlifter Ivan Chuprynko refused to shake hands with the Iranian athlete, Amir Reza Mesforoush, in an apparent statement against Iran's arming Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
"I fully defend the move by the Ukrainian athlete," said Alinejad in a tweet adding that "the athletes who decide to compete under the flag of Iran represent the Islamic Republic."
During the award ceremony, Chuprynko shook hands with the South African athlete and did not even turn towards Iranian Amir Reza Mesforoush. Ivan declined to shake hands with the Iranian representative twice, and Mesforoush shrugged his shoulders in response.
The condemnation puts Iran's athletes in a difficult predicament. Many have spoken out against the regime oppression, but continue to compete and represent the Iranian people.
After the World Cup rebellion in which players refused to sing the anthem, several of the country's football team were given punishments including flight bans and pay cuts.
One of the country's leading chess players competed on the world stage without her headscarf and was subsequently unable to return home.
Several countries such as the US and European Union have sanctioned Iran for its provision of drones in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Iran has denied sending drones to Russia for months, but with increasing evidence, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian finally admitted the issue in November last year. However, he claimed that the deployment of drones was "limited and before the war in Ukraine".