In Reversal, Iran Will Stop Boycott of Israeli Judokas

'We would like to confirm that the I.R. Iran NOC shall fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle,' Iran Judo Federation said making no exception for Israel. But Iran media remain skeptical

Israeli judoka Sagi Aharon Muki
Nir Keidar

The International Judo Federation (IJF) announced it reached an agreement with Iranian authorities whereby a long-term policy of not competing with Israeli athletes would stop. 

Iranian authorities said in a letter in response to the IJF they would abide by the the Olympic Charter's non-discrimination principle, without spelling out any exception for Israel.

“Following several exchanges and discussions with the Iranian Sports Ministry, Olympic Committee and Judo Federation, the IJF is pleased to announce that it received a favorable response and commitment from the Iranian side,” the IJF said in a statement. 

Without naming Israel, it explained: "After having witnessed on several occasions in recent history a disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden 'injury' or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes, phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries, the International Judo Federation decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition."

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The agreement means Israeli judoka Sagi Aharon Muki, who is set to participate to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in the 81 kg category, will compete with Iran's Saeid Mollaei, one of the strongest candidates for an Olympic medal in the grouping.

Iranian authorities acknowledged the agreement reached with the IJF in a letter from Iran's National Olympic Committee and the Iran Judo Federation.

"By means of this letter, we would like to confirm that the I.R. Iran NOC shall fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle, and the I.R. Iran Judo Federation shall fully comply with the Olympic Charter and the IJF Statutes,” it said in English.

After the news of an end to the boycott were reported, however, Iranian media reacted skeptically, denying Iranian athletes would compete with Israelis. One report suggested Iran complying with the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle was "nothing new," specifying Iran does indeed compete with any country but does not consider Israel a legitimate state.

It is not clear whether the report reflects the Iran National Olympic Committee's position, or whether the latter intends to actually put an end to the boycott. In the past, Iran did not have an official policy of boycotting Israel, which would have led to fines, but athletes always used excuses such as last-minute injuries not to compete with Israelis.