Iran's judo federation calls ban 'unfair'

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran's judo federation called its suspension from international competition "unfair" and said it "was a pre-planned scenario", official news agency IRNA reported.

"I believe that suspending Iran's judo was a pre-planned scenario and unfortunately one of our athletes got involved and intensified" the problem, IRNA quoted the head of Iran's judo federation Arash Miresmaeili as saying on Wednesday.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) said earlier it banned Iran for allegedly ordering a judoka to lose at the world championships to avoid facing an Israeli competitor.

Saeid Mollaei, who entered last month's event in Tokyo as the reigning world champion in the -81kg class, said he was ordered to throw his semi-final rather than risk facing an Israeli in the final.

Mollaei lost to Belgian Matthias Casse who in turn lost to Sagi Muki of Israel in the final.

Iran does not recognise Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by giving up the match or simply not participating, and are later praised by top officials.

One of the most famous cases was Miresmaeili himself, a two-time judo world champion who showed up overweight for his bout against an Israeli at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and was disqualified.

He was praised by Iran's then-President Mohammad Khatami and the ultraconservative media and eventually made his way to become the judo federation's chief.

Miresmaeili told Iranian media at the time he would refuse to fight an Israeli as a gesture of support for Palestine.

According to him, the current ban on the federation is "outside the usual procedure" as the disciplinary committee reviewing the case should have temporarily suspended Iran until reviews were complete and Iran had time to present its defence.

"The letter we received today violated all these" considerations, Miresmaeili said.

Iran will "diplomatically follow up" on the issue and hopes to win this "unequal war", he added.

The IJF specified the Iranian Judo Federation may appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 21 days.