Iran Slapped With Four-Year Judo Ban After Ordering Athletes to Avoid Fighting Israelis
i24 News – Iran has bit hit with a four-year ban on participating in international Judo events by the sport’s top body over Tehran’s refusal to let its athletes face off against Israeli competitors.
The case dates back to October 2019 when the International Judo Federation imposed a ban after Iranian judoka and former world champion Saeid Mollaei claimed he was forced to throw matches and withdraw from competition during the World Championship in Tokyo.
Mollaei, who fled Iran and now lives in Europe after attaining Mongolian citizenship, said that he and his family were threatened by Iranian authorities and forced to lose matches in order to avoid competing with Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki.
Muki went on to win the 2019 world 81kg title with the then Iranian taking bronze without fighting him.
The International Judo Federation initially responded to the incident with an open-ended ban against Iran’s team to participate in international competitions, but the decision was later overturned on appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling the punishment had been too severe.
CAS said the Iranian federation had “committed severe violations” of the international federation rules and should be punished accordingly.
“However, the CAS Panel concluded that the kind of sanction (unlimited suspension) imposed in the challenged decision of 22 October 2019 had no legal basis in the IJF regulations,” according to a press statement.
The new four-year ban will expire on September 17, 2023.
In its decision Thursday, judo’s top body highlighted Iran’s “extremely severe offenses” and “repeated and severe breaches” of international judo’s statutes and “the fundamental principles of Olympism.”
In February, Mollaei traveled to Israel where he won a silver medal in an international competition held in Tel Aviv.
Ahead of his second-place finish, Mollaei thanked Israel for its hospitality and support while speaking to CNN, stating the country has been “very good to me since I arrived,”
He added the Israeli judo team “have been very kind. That is something I will never forget.”
Fighting in the under 81 kg (178.5 lbs) category, Mollaei holds two world medals including bronze and gold.