Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Iran's suspension from international judo tournaments for refusing to allow its athletes to compete against Israeli opponents was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on March 1.

The case was prompted by former world champion Saeid Mollaei leaving the Iranian team in August 2019.

Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in Tokyo in protest, saying he was ordered to throw his semifinal rather than risk facing an Israeli opponent in the final of the 81-kilogram class.

Mollaei lost the semifinal and then went on to lose his third-place fight.

He said he had been instructed to withdraw from the competition by the presidents of Iran's Judo Federation and Olympic committee.

The Iranian federation has denied that pressure was applied to force Mollaei to withdraw from the championships.

In its March 1 decision, CAS acknowledged the Iranian judo federation was responsible for 'severe violations' of International Judo Federation (IJF) rules on discrimination and should be punished, though within the world governing body's rules.

But the court said its judges hearing the Iranian judo federation's appeal decided the IJF overstepped its own authority with such a severe ban, which was imposed in October 2019.

'The CAS Panel determined that the [Iranian judo federation] I.R.I. JF committed severe violations of the IJF rules and that sanctions compliant with the IJF regulations should be imposed on it. However, the CAS Panel concluded that the kind of sanction (unlimited suspension) imposed in the challenged decision of 2 October 2019 had no legal basis in the IJF regulations,' CAS said in a statement.

The federation said it welcomed the decision to lift the international suspension.

The IJF had accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes, including Mollaei, who later fled to Germany.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last year approved Mollaei's switch to compete for Mongolia.

The IOC said the change did not need permission from Iranian Olympic officials because the judoka was technically a refugee.

The IJF has said any action taken against Iran would not apply directly to the Tokyo Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee and not the national judo body.

With reporting by AFP and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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