30th April 2021

IJF suspends Iranian judo federation for instructing athlete to lose

The International Judo Federation (IJF) has sanctioned the Islamic Republic of Iran Judo Federation (IRIJF) with a four year suspension for instructing a judoka to lose in order to avoid having to face Israeli opposition. Earlier this month, the United for Navid campaign urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take action against Iran, highlighting that Iranian athletes in other sports have been forced into similar action. 

Iran is expected  to compete at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and the IOC has yet to comment on the IJF’s action. The IOC has also not issued any comment on a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling (PDF below), which found that the IRIJF and the Iranian Olympic Committee were involved in an institutionalised scheme that violated by the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.

‘In view of the repeated and very severe breaches of the IJF Statutes and the Fundamental Principles of Olympism committed by IRIJF as acknowledged by the CAS panel, the Disciplinary Commission considers that the status of IJF member of IRIJF should be provisionally withdrawn (with all affiliate components) for a period of four years, i.e. a full Olympiad’, read an IJF statement. ‘As the IRIJF has already served a period of (protective) suspension from 18 September 2019 as per the Disciplinary Commission’s decision of even date and the subsequent decision of 22 October 2019, the Disciplinary Commission finds it appropriate under art. 13 of the IJF Disciplinary Code that the start date of the provisional withdrawal be backdated to 18 September 2019. The Disciplinary Commission considers that this sanction, especially given the backdating and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic (which led to no competition being organised for most of 2020), is proportionate to the extremely severe offenses committed by IRIJF.’

The IRIJF had appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against two suspensions imposed by the IJF. The IRIJF disputed allegations that it had instructed Saied Mollaei to withdraw from competing to avoid a potential contest against Sagi Muki, an Israeli athlete. On 30 November 2018, Mollaei contacted the IJF about changing nationalities because he had been instructed not to compete against Israelis. The IRIJF argued that Mollaei’s allegations were motivated by a request to seek asylum in Germany, and that the charges were unjustified. 

In its Decision (PDF below), the CAS found that the IRIJF directed a ‘scheme whereby the Athlete was required to lose before even getting to the point where he had to face an Israeli athlete in an attempt to disguise the underlying true motive from the IJF and the public. In addition, this matter has shown the combined involvement of the IRI NOC, the Ministry of Sports of the IRI as well as the IRIJF, which clearly reveals an institutionalised scheme. Finally, this scheme violates principles that are of paramount importance as they form part of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, as provided for in the Olympic Charter. As a result, the Panel finds that the violations committed by the Appellant undoubtedly qualify as a ‘serious breach’ within the meaning of Article 28.1 of the IJF Statutes. Accordingly, the Appellant could validly be imposed a suspension or an expulsion.’


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