Iran banned from judo competitions over boycott of Israel

International Judo Federation upholds ban on Iran from all competition.

Elad Benari ,

Judo (illustration)
Judo (illustration)

The International Judo Federation (IJF) on Tuesday rejected Iran’s appeal of its ban from all competition over its boycott of Israeli athletes, The Associated Press reports.

The ban, comes nine months before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will be in effect “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 Federation said in a statement.

Last month, the IJF banned Iran from all competitions after the Islamic Republic 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 at the time that it was banning Iran because it was in breach of multiple codes, including the Olympic Charter.

The Iran Judo, in a written defense to the IJF, denied Mollaei’s claims, and said he made them in order to speed up his change of nationality. The IJF, however, rejected the Iranian argument.

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.