Iran’s Mollaei says his coach received two calls from Iranian authorities ordering his fighter to pull out of the Tokyo tournament to avoid the possibility of meeting Israeli judoka Sagi Muki in the final.
The 27-year-old ignored those warnings and after losing in the semifinals of the competition — a result he says was affected by the emotional stress caused by the Iran officials request — travelled to Germany to begin the process of applying for asylum.
Mollaei said he feared for his safety and that of his family back home, but Salehi Amiri, the president of Iran’s Olympic Committee, said the fighter and his family “will not and have not faced any threats or danger.”
But according to the head of Iran’s judo federation Arash Miresmaeili, this suspension was pre-meditated.
“I believe that suspending Iran’s judo was a pre-planned scenario and unfortunately one of our athletes got involved and intensified the problem,” Miresmaeili told news agency IRNA Wednesday.
Miresmaeili also added that Iran will “diplomatically follow up” on the issue and hopes to win this “unequal war”.
Iranian athletes have for a long time been prohibited from competing in any sport against Israel.
It’s not the first time Iran has breached IJF statutes. During the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the now president of the Iran Judo Federation, Arash Mireshmaeli, was instructed to withdraw from competing to avoid a potential contest against an Israeli athlete.
The IJF Disciplinary Commission ruled that because of the repeated actions of the Iran federation, it has “strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct or commit any other offence against the legitimate interests, principles or objectives of the IJF.”
The “protective suspension” will begin on September 18 and will encompass all “competitions, administrative and social activities organized or authorized by International Judo Federation and its unions.”
The decision is subject to appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Iran Judo Federation has 21 days to appeal against the decision.