Judoka who fled Iran over Israeli matchup wins silver at Tel Aviv tournament

Judoka who fled Iran over Israeli matchup wins silver at Tel Aviv tournament
2 min read
20 February, 2021
Saeid Mollaei, who fled Iran after refusing to obey an order to lose a fight to avoid Israeli opponent, represented Mongolia in the Tel Aviv tournament.
Mollaei represented Mongolia at the Tel Aviv-based event
An Iranian judo fighter won a silver medal at the international championship in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Saeid Mollaei received the award from Israeli authorities, who hosted this year’s edition of the tournament.

Mollaei fled Iran in 2019 after being forced by Iranian officials to lose in the semi-finals of the World Judo Championship in Japan to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

Mollaei, who refused to withdraw and went on to reach the semi finals in Tokyo, was granted refugee status in Germany and participated in the Grand Slam Tel Aviv tournament.

He represented Mongolia at the event.

Iran does not recognise Israel as a state and prohibits its athletes from competing with Israeli opponents.

The International Judo Federation has said Iranians have thrown matches and used "questionable injuries" to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei's 2019 case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Iranian Olympic Committee president Reza Salehi Amiri pledging to "fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

After Mollaei’s refusal to obey Iranian authorities, the IJF imposed an indefinite ban on Iran's team until it promises to end a long-running boycott of Israel.

Read also: Iranian judoka 'afraid' to go home after refusing to quit competition to avoid Israeli opponent

The IJF's disciplinary commission said the ban will stand "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 commission said Iran broke rules on non-discrimination and the manipulation of competition results.

In June 2019, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach criticised governments who "clearly abuse sport for their political purposes," noting a case in May of the same year which saw a Tunisian court block four Israelis from competing at the taekwondo junior world championships.

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