Georgia wrestling chief detained for assault on former European champion

Tamaz “Gega” Gegeshidze has been “detained and charged with using violence against sportsman Zurab Datunashvili on January 11 in Tbilisi’s Sports Palace,” a police statement said.

On a video aired on national television, Zurab Datunashvili (in red) was seen being attacked on the head with a metal object. Photo: Getty Images

Georgian police has arrested the chief of the country’s wrestling federation over a violent assault on a two-time European champion during a national tournament in the ex-Soviet Caucasus nation.

Tamaz “Gega” Gegeshidze has been “detained and charged with using violence against sportsman Zurab Datunashvili on January 11 in Tbilisi’s Sports Palace,” a police statement said.

A video aired on national television appears to show Gegeshidze hitting Datunashvili, the Greco-Roman wrestling European champion in 2016 and 2017, on the head with a metal object as he walks from the ring, leaving his face covered in blood.

Datunashvili, 27, told Rustavi-2 TV that Gegeshidze was angry that he was appealing against his loss in the finals of Georgia’s national wrestling championship to Robert Kobliashvili, the current European champion. Datunashvili has previously accused the leadership of Georgia’s wrestling federation of corruption and mismanagement.

Gegeshidze could face a one-year jail term if found guilty.

A popular sport

Wrestling is one of the most popular sports in the nation nestled between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains. United Nations culture agency, UNESCO has added a traditional form of Georgian wrestling called Chidaoba to its list of the intangible heritage of humanity.

Gegeshidze is a former Greco-Roman wrestler and used to work as a bodyguard for the interior minister. Georgia’s main opposition party, exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, accused Gegeshidze of staging a violent attack on party leaders in 2016 but he was not charged.

Several UNM leaders were brutally beaten outside a polling station during 2016 local elections by a group of current and former sportsmen that included Gegeshidze’s brother Vladimer.