TEL AVIV – In a historic breakthrough, Iran will end a decades-long boycott of Israeli judo athletes, Iran’s National Olympic Committee stated on Saturday in a letter to the International Judo Federation.
Iran’s Judo Federation agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle,” it said in the letter.
According to the IJF, the letter came after extensive discussions on the “disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes.”
Arash Miresmaeli, who now serves as president of Iran’s Olympic committee, is a former judoka who in 2004 was paid $125,000 — the amount awarded to gold medalists — by the committee for weighing in four pounds over the weight limit for his class, disqualifying him from appearing on the mat opposite Israeli Udi Wax.
In February, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei purposely lost a match by claiming injury at the Paris Grand Slam to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki in the next round, in which the two would compete for the gold. He miraculously recovered to go on to win a bronze medal match, but was inflicted with another injury that prevented him from standing on the podium with Muki.
Muki won the gold on Saturday at the Baku Grand Slam, making him a likely contender for Israel at the 2020 Olympics.
The IJF threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, including the Olympics, if it did not give up its boycott against Israelis, Israel’s Army Radio said.