In a meeting with Iranian medalists from the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that a "free-born and proud athlete" cannot shake the hands of a "representative of a criminal regime," just for the sake of winning a medal. The meeting was aired on Channel 1 (Iran) on September 18, 2021. Khamenei said that the "brutal, genocidal, and illegitimate Zionist regime" is trying to gain legitimacy by participating in international sporting events with the support of "arrogant" America. He added that it is the job of the Sports Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and legal systems to provide Iranian athletes with the necessary legal and diplomatic support during these sporting events.
Ali Khamenei: "An important point with regards to international sports is the issue of the criminal Zionist regime. This is a very important matter. That brutal, genocidal, and illegitimate regime is trying – by participating in the international sporting events – to obtain legitimacy. For this, it is using sports forums, and the global arrogant [Americans] and those who depend on them help and assist them in this. In this respect, I am saying to you – both the respected sports officials and the athletes themselves: Don't be passive under any circumstances. Obviously, they will take countermeasures, and it is the job of the Sports Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and the legal systems to provide the athletes with legal and diplomatic support, and to prevent them from being oppressed. We cannot, just because of a medal... I mean, a free-born and proud athlete cannot, just because of a medal, shake hands with the representative of a criminal regime, thus recognizing it. There are precedents to this. Today, they are causing a fuss over the Zionist regime, but it was the same with the apartheid regime in South Africa. Many of the athletes in the world refused to compete with [South Africa]. That regime was destroyed and disappeared, and the same will happen [to Israel]. It will also be destroyed. Therefore, this is a very important matter. The various systems should defend the rights of the Iranian athletes – and even non-Iranian athletes who encounter sanctions, because they refuse to compete with a representative of the Zionist regime, like in the case of the Algerian athlete."