Judo - Iran judoka pressured not to fight Israeli, refuses to return home

Judo - Iran judoka pressured not to fight Israeli, refuses to return home

"Mollaei lost a match in obvious indifference [in order] not to face an Israeli judoka in world competitions in Tokyo in August, based on a rule in the Islamic Republic banning competition between Iranian and Israeli athletes", says the radio station, which is a US government-funded Persian-language broadcasting outlet.

Iranian judo star Saeid Mollaei, who claimed he was ordered to deliberately lose a world championship fight, could compete under a different flag at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the sport's governing body said Sunday.

Ahead of his semifinal clash with eventual champion Matthias Casse of Belgium, Mollaei says a second call came from Iranian Olympic Committee president Reza Salehi Amiri, informing him that Iranian National Security had visited his parent's house.

In interviews given after he won the world title Muki refused to speak of Mollaei's situation and praised him as an outstanding human being and a top athlete.

Mollaei says "I need help".

"Even if the government of my nation informed me that I will be able to return with none issues, I'm afraid".

"I want to compete wherever I can", Mollaei stated in a press release from the IJF.

The 27-year-old Mollaei ignored the warnings, but despite losing in the last four he fears repercussions back home in Iran.

Sagi Muki upon winning gold
Sagi Muki upon winning gold

At risk: "Saeid Mollaei is now under risk and the IJF is looking forward to finding the best solution to allow a champion to continue to do what he does best: to compete no matter what and without any kind of discrimination", the IJF statement said.

"I could have been champion", he said.

"I am a fighter".

"Now we have no selection, all athletes should adjust to it". If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes. "I live in a country whose law does not permit me to". All I did right now was for my life, for a brand new life.

"It is our mission to protect our athletes - that's clear", Vizer told AFP.

"We are competing for a better World".

After winning the quarter-final, Mollaei was contacted by the president of the Olympic committee contacted Mollaei to tell him to pull out of the semi. Iran's Olympic committee could not be reached for a comment.

Vizer added that an emergency meeting would be convened to investigate whether Mollaei and his family had been the victim of political coercion or threats and subsequently to decide whether to punish the Iranian judo federation.

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