International Judo Federation suspends Iran over its avoidance of competing with Israel

September 19, 2019 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The International Judo Federation (IJF) on Wednesday announced it had officially suspended Iran over its directive to its Judoka Saeid Mollaei to withdraw from a recent competition to avoid a contest against Israel’s Sagi Muki.

019 Judo Grand Prix Tel Aviv, the prestigious international competition, takes place in Shlomo Group Hall ( Drive In Arena ) in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv, Jan 26, 2019. Photo by TPS

The IJF said that the Iran Judo Federation was suspended from “all competitions, administrative and social activities organized or authorized” by the IJF.

During the last 2019 World Championships in Tokyo in August, Mollaei lost to Belgian judoka Matthias Casse on purpose to avoid a faceoff with Muki. He was acting on direct orders from the Iranian authorities, which used his family as leverage.

Mollaei subsequently left for Berlin, where he is currently in the process of seeking asylum.

In its statement, the IJF underscored that Iran’s conduct was “in gross contradiction” with the letter sent to the IJF in May by Iran’s Judo Federation, which confirmed it will “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle and the I.R. Iran Federation shall fully comply with the Olympic Charter and the IJF Statutes.”

Iran’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) sent the letter, which was signed by Reza Salehi Amiri, President of Iran’s NOC, and Arash Miresmaeli, President of the Iranian Judo Federation.

Furthermore, Iran actions “constitute a serious breach and gross violation of the Statutes of the IJF, its legitimate interests, its principles and objectives as well as of, in particular, but not limited to, the IJF Code of Ethics and the Olympic Charter,” the organization stated.

The IJF Executive Committee stated that “such conduct is intolerable,” and consequently has decided “to initiate a disciplinary procedure against the Iran Judo Federation and to submit the case to the IJF Disciplinary Commission.”

For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts and other obstacles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.

In February 2018, Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul won a bronze medal after his Iranian opponent intentionally gained weight to avoid competing with him.

Earlier that month, the United World Wrestling organization banned Iranian athlete Alireza Karimi from competition for six months for intentionally losing to a Russian competitor in the quarter-final of the U-23 World Championship in Poland in November 2017, so as not to have to compete against Israeli opponent Uri Kalashnikov. Karimi’s coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, was banned for two years.

In February 2017, Iranian karate athlete Majid Hassaninia refused to compete against an Israeli opponent at the 21st Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France.

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