Judo-Iran Hit with Indefinite Ban for Pressuring Fighter Not to Face Israeli
Iran has been banned indefinitely from international competition until it can give strong guarantees that its athletes will be allowed to face Israelis, the International Judo Federation (IJF) has said.
The IJF decision follows a protective suspension imposed on the Iran Judo Federation on September 18 for putting pressure on one of its fighters to withdraw from the world judo championships to avoid having to face an Israeli opponent.
The ban extends to all competitions, administrative and social activities organized or authorized by the IJF and its unions. Iran has 21 days to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the IJF said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Saeid Mollaei was pressured by Iranian authorities to drop out of his quarter-final and semi-final bouts at the August 25-September 1 world titles in Tokyo to avoid a potential final with Israel’s Sagi Muki, the IJF said.
The 2018 world champion, who is in hiding in Germany, has refused to return to Iran over fears for his safety after ignoring the orders from its National Olympic Committee and government.
The Iran Judo Federation has denied instructing Mollaei to withdraw from competing, saying that his statements were false and made to “speed up his change of nationality process”.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, then Iranian world champion Arash Mirasmaeili refused to fight Israeli judoka Ehud Vaks, earning praise back home.