The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) has lifted the ban on Turkish Wrestler and Olympic Bronze medal holder Riza Kayaalp who was suspended for a period of six months from participating in any wrestling tournaments for alleged racism against the Gezi protesters, Greeks, and Armenians. During the Gezi Park protests, it was reported that Kayaalp allegedly aired many offensive and derogatory remarks on the social networking site Twitter, insulting the protesters as traitors. His tweets included messages such as “You left the ground to Armenians, God punish you damn chapulliers [looters],” and “Armenian people are celebrating that they have occupied Taksim square and insulted Turkey easily”. Subsequently, many complaints were filed with FILA and The International Olympics Council (IOC). However, the chairman of the Turkish Wrestling Federation, Hamza Yerlikaya told the Associated Press on Aug. 14 that Kayaalp’s ban has been temporarily removed and thus he will take part in the world championships in Hungary next month.
The appeal for the removal of the ban by the Turkish federation was on the insistence that there is no evidence that Kayaalp had posted the insulting and racist tweets attributed to him. It also argued that the wrestler was not given the opportunity to defend himself. However, according to Hurriyet Daily News, after controversy erupted, the tweets were deleted but Kayaalp indirectly admitted to posting them when he spoke to the state-run Anadolu Agency, where he said he was “misunderstood” and said his tweets were about people who were engaged in destructive acts.
The Turkish Wrestling body is accusing a third party for posting the offensive tweets. “There are neither any findings nor documents nor complaining parties nor official evidence to ground these allegations. But he is receiving a penalty. There is something unlawful here. Our kinds have no racist speech here. These are tweets sent by third parties. It is not even that certain” stated Yerlikaya. He assured journalists that in case any evidence of racism is found against Kayaalp, he would be the first to issue penalties.
“We will not have our kid wasted. We are behind him. We believe in his innocence profoundly. Therefore, we will take whatever legal action possible,” concluded Yerlikaya.
Bianet reports that Kayaalp was recently chosen as the flag holder athlete for Turkey in the opening ceremony of Mediterranean Games—an international Olympic event that is hosted by Turkey this year.