Photo Credit: Roy Alima / Flash 90
Sagi Muki, gold medal winner in Judo

Iran has announced its Judokas will cease their practice of boycotting Israel athletes, the International Judo Federation (IJF) announced Saturday.

The IJF reached an agreement it termed as “historic” with Iran’s Judo Federation in which it has obligated itself to stop findings ways to dodge competitions against Israeli athletes.

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“After having witnessed on several occasions in recent history a disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden “injury” or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes, phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries,” the IJF decided to “step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.”

Iran’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) agreed in a letter to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle,” making no exceptions for any countries, including Israel.

The letter was signed by Syed Reza Salehi Amiri, President of Iran’s NOC, and Arash Miresmaeli, President of the Iranian Judo Federation.

For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts and other obstacles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.

In February 2018, Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul won a bronze medal after his Iranian opponent intentionally gained weight to avoid competing with him.

Earlier that month, the United World Wrestling organization banned Iranian athlete Alireza Karimi from competition for six months for intentionally losing to a Russian competitor in the quarter-final of the U-23 World Championship in Poland in November 2017, so as not to have to compete against Israeli opponent Uri Kalashnikov. Karimi’s coach, Hamidreza Jamshidi, was banned for two years.

In February 2017, Iranian karate athlete Majid Hassaninia refused to compete against an Israeli opponent at the 21st Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France.

However, Israel has seen some success in thwarting Arab countries’ attempts at preventing its athletes from participating in international tournaments.

Last year, the International Judo Federation (IJF) suspended the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix from its competition calendar, after they refused to display the Israeli flag or to play the Israeli national anthem

In October 2018, the Israeli national anthem was played in United Arab Emirates (UAE) as Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki won the Gold medal, while in a previous competition held in the UAE, Israel’s national anthem and Israel’s flag were banned as Israeli Tal Flicker took the gold medal.

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