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Iran’s suspension from judo events over Israel boycott lifted

Iran’s suspension from international judo events for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The case was prompted by former world champion Saeid Mollaei leaving the Iranian team in 2019, claiming he was ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions to avoid facing Israelis.

CAS says its judges hearing the Iranian judo federation’s appeal decided the International Judo Federation overstepped its authority with such a severe ban, which was imposed in October 2019. The case was sent back to an IJF disciplinary panel for review.

Israeli world champion judoka Sagi Muki, right, and Iranian champion Saeid Mollaei embrace at the Paris Grand Slam, February 10, 2020, in an Instagram photo posted online by Muki. (Instagram screen capture)

The court acknowledges the Iranian judo federation had “committed severe violations of the IJF rules” on discrimination and should be punished, though within the world governing body’s rules.

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

The International Olympic Committee 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.

During the case, the IJF 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.

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