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Iranian Supreme Leader rejects any sporting contact with Israel

Iranian Supreme Leader rejects any sporting contact with Israel

The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reaffirmed his rejection of any contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes, in a speech before the medalists who participated in the Tokyo Games representing this country.

Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel, does not recognize the Hebrew state and has made its support for the Palestinian cause one of the pillars of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

For years, Iranian athletes have managed to avoid facing Israeli rivals in competition, withdrawing from tournaments, even justifying it with medical certificates.

“An Iranian athlete, worthy of the name, cannot shake hands with a representative of the (Israeli) criminal regime to obtain a medal,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to an excerpt from his speech posted on his website.

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“The bloodthirsty Zionist regime (…) tries to gain legitimacy by participating in international sports competitions, with the assistance of the arrogant world (the United States and Western countries), but our sports representatives and our athletes must not remain passive,” he added.

Iran won seven medals, three of them gold, at the Tokyo Olympics and 24 more (12 golds) at the Paralympics.

Speaking of the sanctions imposed by international sports bodies on Iranian athletes who have refused to face Iranian rivals, Khamenei invited “the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the judicial authority, to use legal means to support athletes from the country, as well as Muslim athletes from other countries, such as the recently sanctioned Egyptian athlete.

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The supreme leader was referring to the Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who retired in Tokyo to avoid having to face a Hebrew rival, an action for which he was suspended by the International Judo Federation (IJF), which also withdrew his accreditation.

In October 2019, the Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, world champion, lost in the semifinals, denouncing having suffered pressure from his authorities not to face the Israeli Sagi Muki in the final.

Following this act, the IJF expelled Iran from all its competitions until the country “guarantees its respect for the statutes of the world judo authority and that its members agree to fight against Israelis.”

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In February 2021, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) nevertheless annulled the “unlimited” sanction inflicted on Iran. AFP (HN)

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