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International Judo Federation Bans Iran for Refusing To Compete Against Israelis

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The International Judo Federation banned Iran from participating in international tournaments on Tuesday after the country prohibited its athletes from facing Israeli competitors.

The IJF had issued a provisional ban last month following reports that Iran had instructed one of its judokas to throw a match at the world championships to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, The Times of Israel reported.

Now, the organization’s disciplinary commission has announced an indefinite ban.

“Following the events, which occurred during the last World Judo Championships Tokyo 2019, the final suspension of the Iran Judo Federation from all competitions … has been pronounced,” the organization said in a statement.

The ban will not be lifted “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’s official decision said.

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The decision revealed that Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei had been ordered to withdraw from the Tokyo championships to avoid competing against Israeli Sagi Muki.

While the Iran Judo Federation denied pressuring Mollaei to withdraw, the IJF disciplinary commission conducted an investigation that found the contrary.

Iran’s actions “constitute a serious breach and gross violation of the Statutes of the IJF, its legitimate interests, its principles and objectives,” the commission determined.

The panel also said that “this situation is a violation of the Olympic charter and the IOC Code of Ethics.”

Do you support the IJF's decision to ban Iran?

As The Times of Israel recounted, the Islamic Republic and its sports teams have a long history of refusing to compete against Israeli opponents.

Arash Miresmaeili, the chief of the Iran Judo Federation and a former judo world champion himself, criticized the IJR’s ban as “outside the usual procedure.”

Israel’s minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev, praised the ban, but also mentioned “the heavy price Iranian athletes will have to pay because of their regime’s decisions.”

Iran’s restrictive policies around sports do not end with the country’s anti-Israel stance.

In September, Iranian sports garnered international headlines when a woman in the country was sentenced to jail for sneaking into a soccer match.

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She later set herself on fire in protest.

Iran has faced pressure from FIFA, the international organization that governs world soccer competition, over its policies that discriminate against women.

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