Iran banned from world judo until it agrees to face Israel
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran was banned from international judo competitions Tuesday for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents.
The International Judo Federation imposed an indefinite ban on Iran’s team until it promises to end a long-running boycott of Israel.
The IJF’s disciplinary commission said the ban will stand “until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”
The commission said Iran broke rules on non-discrimination and the manipulation of competition results.
The ruling comes after 2018 world champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in August, saying he had been ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions so as not to face Israelis.
The IJF accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes including Mollaei, who is now in hiding in Germany and could potentially go to the Olympics as part of the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.
According to the commission, Iran accused Mollaei of making false claims in order to “speed up his change of nationality process” and denied he had ever come under government pressure. The commission says it found that argument to be untrue.
Iran has already missed some events because it was provisionally suspended last month pending the full disciplinary ruling.
The IJF has previously said any measures taken against Iran won’t apply directly to next year’s Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the national judo federation.
However, qualifying for the Olympics depends in large part on world ranking points from IJF events.
Iran can appeal the IJF ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The measure comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee is pushing back against boycotts and other political demonstrations in sports.
In June, IOC President Thomas Bach criticized governments who “clearly abuse sport for their political purposes,” noting a case in May of a Tunisian court blocking four Israelis from competing at the taekwondo junior world championships.