Iran criticizes suspension from judo competitions

Iran's judo federation says its suspension from international competition it "was a pre-planned scenario".

Elad Benari ,

Judo (illustration)
Judo (illustration)

Iran's judo federation criticized its suspension from international competition as "unfair" and said it "was a pre-planned scenario", AFP reported, citing the IRNA news agency.

"I believe that suspending Iran's judo was a pre-planned scenario and unfortunately one of our athletes got involved and intensified" the problem, the head of Iran's judo federation Arash Miresmaeili said.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) announced on Wednesday that it had banned Iran from all competitions after Iran forced judoka Saeid Mollaei to withdraw from the World Judo Championships in order to avoid competing against an Israeli.

The 27-year-old ignored those warnings and after losing in the semifinals of the competition -- a result he says was affected by the emotional stress caused by the Iran officials request -- travelled to Germany to begin the process of applying for asylum.

The IJF explained that it was banning Iran because it was in breach of multiple codes, including the Olympic Charter.

Miresmaeili said that the current ban on the Iranian federation is "outside the usual procedure" as the disciplinary committee reviewing the case should have temporarily suspended Iran until reviews were complete and Iran had time to present its defense.

"The letter we received today violated all these" considerations, Miresmaeili said, according to AFP.

Iran will "diplomatically follow up" on the issue and hopes to win this "unequal war", he added.

Mollaei is hardly the first Iranian to avoid an Israeli in a sports competition, as the Islamic Republic has a long-time policy in this regard.

In 2010, an Iranian contestant withdrew from a Taekwondo match against Israel’s Gili Haimovitz, who won a gold medal by default.

In 2012, Iranian athletes announced their intention to boycott competitions against Israelis at the London Olympics.

Two years ago, two Iranian players were criticized in their home country after they appeared for their Greek club Panionios in a Europa League qualifier against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Iran forced Mollaei to throw a match even though the IJF and Iran reached an agreement in May which stipulates that Iran will no longer boycott competitions against Israelis.