Iran responded to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration Friday by banning American wrestlers from entering their country to participate in the Freestyle World Cup competition.
The Associated Press cites Iranian media reports that Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi announced that a “special committee” had reviewed the case of the U.S. wrestlers and eventually “opposed” their visit.
“Ghasemi said the policy of the new U.S. administration left Iran no other choice but to ban the wrestlers,” the AP adds.
The U.S. team was absent from the prestigious competition through the 1980s-90s but have participated 15 times since 1998. Iran’s team has, in turn, visited the United States 16 times.
Oregon Live carried USA Wrestling’s response:
USA Wrestling has seen the media reports that the Iranian Foreign Ministry plans to deny visas for the United States freestyle wrestling team to travel to Kermanshah, Iran to participate in the 2017 Freestyle World Cup, Feb. 16-17.
At this time, neither USA Wrestling nor United World Wrestling have been officially notified that these reports are accurate. We have no official documentation that the USA Wrestling team will be denied the opportunity to participate at the Freestyle World Cup.
The Freestyle World Cup is the annual World dual meet championship, one of the most important events that United World Wrestling hosts each year.
If these reports are true, USA Wrestling is extremely disappointed about this, which we believe would be an unacceptable situation. Wrestling is about competition and goodwill through sport, and is no place for politics.
When or if USA Wrestling can confirm these reports officially, we may provide additional commentary.
“We’re in talks about it right at the moment,” USA Wrestling’s chief international ambassador, Christina Kelley, told The New York Times. “We’re pretty devastated.”
The NYT notes that wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Iran, and Iran worked with the United States to keep wrestling in the Olympic Summer Games when it was threatened with removal in 2013.
The Freestyle World Cup is scheduled for February 16 and 17 in Kermanshah, Iran.