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Iran Indefinitely Banned from Global Judo Competitions Over Refusal to Compete Against Israelis

Courtesy AP

JERUSALEM, Israel – The International Judo Federation (IFJ)  announced on Tuesday that Iran is indefinitely banned from competing in all future competitions due to the country's discrimination against Israeli players.

The federation said the ban will stay in place 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." 

Iran does not recognize Israel as a country, calls for its destruction and has for years ordered its athletes never to compete against an Israeli.

The total ban comes after IJF suspended Iran last month for pressuring Iranian-born Saeid Mollaei to deliberately lose at the World Judo Championships Tokyo 2019 in August to avoid competing against Israeli competitor Sagi Muki.

Mollaei was defending his title at the championship. Instead of forfeiting the competition, he defied Tehran and continued fighting.

The federation reported that Mollaei feared for his life after Iran's deputy minister of sport, threatened his and his family's lives. IJF Media said that national security officers visited Mollaei's family home in Iran and threatened them.

"The IJF Executive Committee considered that such a conduct is intolerable," the federation said.

Mollaei is now hiding in Germany.

The ban is a major blow to Iran because the country's athletes are among the top in the world in Judo.

The Islamic Republic is expected to appeal the IJF decision at the Court of Arbitration of Sport in Switzerland. Tehran has 21 days to appeal.

The IJF previously said that any disciplinary actions taken against Iran will not apply directly to the 2020 Olympics because athletes are entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the IJE.

However, Iranian judo athletes' international ranking, and thus their ability to qualify for the Olympics depends heavily on IJF events.

Israel's Culture Minister Miri Regev praised the ban but regretted “the heavy price Iranian athletes will have to pay because of their regime’s decisions.”

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