Iranian judoka and defector Saeid Mollaei

Iran appeals ban from judo for avoiding Israeli opponents

Provisional ban set to run into September 2023 unless Iranian officials allow their athletes to compete freely; court verdict expected to take at least several weeks

Ynet, Associated Press |
Published: 11.23.21, 19:46
The Iran Judo Federation’s appeal against a four-year ban from international events for refusing to let its athletes face opponents from Israel was heard on Tuesday.
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  • The Court of Arbitration for Sport said the Iranian appeal against an International Judo Federation (IJF) ruling was held by video link. A verdict is expected to take at least several weeks.
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    סעיד מולאי
    סעיד מולאי
    Iranian judoka and defector Saeid Mollaei
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The IJF acted against Iran after former world champion Saeid Mollaei left the team claiming he was instructed by Iranian authorities to lose matches to avoid a potential contest against Israel's Sagi Muki in the semi-final of the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo.
    Mollaei fled to Germany, citing fears for his safety in Iran, and later got International Olympic Committee approval to compete for Mongolia.
    Following the incident, Mollaei and Muki have fostered a close friendship, exchanging gestures on social media. Mollaei even arrived in Israel in February to compete in a Judo Grand Slam competition in Tel Aviv.
    He won a silver medal in the 81-kilogram class at the Tokyo Olympics in July, which he dedicated to Israel.
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    שגיא מוקי וסעיד מולאי
    שגיא מוקי וסעיד מולאי
    Saeid Mollaei and Israeli judoka Sagi Muki showcase medals they have won in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
    (Photo: Instagram)
    The IJF at first imposed an indefinite ban on the Iranian federation until its policy of discrimination was changed. That was overruled at the CAS and the case was sent back to the governing body which settled on a four-year suspension in April.
    The provisional ban, which could still be withdrawn if Iranian officials allow their athletes to compete freely, is set to run into September 2023.
    In September, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reasserted the Islamic republic's longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
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