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Iran judo suspension over Israel policy lifted

Saeid Mollaei

TOKYO, JAPAN, AUGUST 28: Defending World champion, Saeid Mollaei of Iran defeated Carlos Luz of Argentina by an ippon (10 points) in their third round u81kg (light-middleweight) contest on his way to seventh place during the 2019 Tokyo World Judo Championships Day 4 of 8 at the Nippon Budokan on August 28, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by David Finch/Getty Images)

David Finch/Getty Images

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — 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 on Monday.

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

The court acknowledged 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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