A group of athletes and human rights activists is calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to sanction Iran’s Olympic program for Iran’s long-running pattern of ordering athletes to avoid competing against Israelis in international events, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The head of the United for Navid campaign, formed to protest the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach this week highlighting more than a half-dozen examples over the past 16 years of Iranian athletes intentionally losing matches that would set up meetings against Israelis, or withdrawing from competitions against athletes from that country.
“The fact that Iranian athletes are being forced to throw matches to avoid competing against Israeli athletes is a clear breach of the Olympic charter and Olympic values,” former Iranian wrestler Sardar Pashaei wrote to Bach, according to AP.
An IOC spokesman said in response, “The IOC takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues.”
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.
In 2017, 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.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) banned Iran from all international competitions in 2019 after former world champion Saeid Mollaei left the Iranian team after being ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions to avoid facing Israelis.
Last month, however, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Iran's suspension from international judo events, saying the International Judo Federation overstepped its own authority with such a severe ban.