Photo Credit: Israel Judo Association
Israeli judoka Sagi Muki (left) and Iranian expat Saeid Mollaei in Tel Aviv on Feb. 16, 2021.

The International Judo Federation suspended Iran on Thursday for attempting to prevent its athletes compete against opponents from Israel, reported The Associated Press.

The IJF imposed a four-year ban that prevents Iranian judokas from competing at its events, including world championships, and officials cannot take any part in the world governing body. Iranian judokas going to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics are exempt from the ban because the team is sent by the national Olympic body, not the national judo federation.

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The ban has been backdated to start in 2019 and will run to September 2023. It can be lifted if the Iranian judo federation respects the IJF’s rules on discrimination and allows its athletes to compete with Israelis.

The ruling comes after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned Iran’s suspension from international judo events last month and ordered a disciplinary review.

The IJF said on Thursday that it “continues to defend the fundamental human values and rights of all its members, with a special emphasis on the rights of athletes, and reiterates its commitment to fight against any form of discrimination in the sport of judo.”

Iran’s actions against Israeli competitors made headlines when former Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei left his team in 2019, saying he was forced to lose matches to avoid facing Israeli athletes. CAS judges previously said the case “clearly reveals an institutionalized scheme” to prevent athletes from facing Israelis.

Iranian officials can again challenge the IJF verdict at the CAS.

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