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International Judo Bans Iran for Refusing to Compete with Israeli

October 22, 2019 News

Iran is being sanctioned again – this time in Judo.
Illustrative official meeting in Iran. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Iran is down for the count in international judo, after a major judo competition body on Wednesday banned the country from competing due to their refusing to compete with an Israeli. The International Judo Federation (IJF), in a news report on their website, said in the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo in August, an Iranian judo competitor, or judoka, was instructed to withdraw from the competition rather than face off against Israeli Sagi Muki. The Iranian judoka, Saeid Mollaei later informed the IJF of the Iranian demand he throw the match.

After reviewing the evidence—including testimony from another Farsi speaker who confirmed the instruction from the first Deputy Minister of Sport of Iran and the Iran National Olympic Committee’s President telling Mollaei not to compete with the Israeli—the IJF decided to uphold the ban on Iranian judo competitors. Per the news statement, the IJF said the ban would remain 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.”

One of the concerns, according to the IJF, is that throwing the match effectively served as “competition manipulation”. The IJF also cited principals such as “mutual understanding and a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play”, as well as opposition to discrimination.

The decision by the IJF was to be passed along to the International Olympic Committee as well, although it was unclear from the IJF notice if the ban would also apply to the Olympic games as well. Haaretz separately reported that it was probable that Iran would not compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Discrimination against Israel in judo is sadly nothing new. Back in 2017, The Independent reported that Israel’s flag and anthem were banned and multiple losing competitors from Muslim nations refused the customary handshake with their Israeli counterparts in a tournament in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Israeli judo competitors were victorious there anyway.

On Wednesday, they won again—this time for the right to be treated equally.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 22, 2019)

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