Nili Block, Israel’s three-time World Champion in the Thai boxing sport of Muah Thai, told United With Israel she was “not surprised” that the Iranians are going back on their word.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler, United With Israel
Following a letter publicized in May by the International Judo Federation (IJF), stating that Iran would “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its nondiscrimination principle,” the country is rescinding on its agreement.
The head of Iran’s national Olympic committee, Syed Reza Salehi Amiri, told the International Judo Federation chairman Marius Vizer that Iranian athletes will not compete with Israeli athletes, Fars News Agency reported.
“Refraining from participating in competitions with athletes of the Zionist regime is an issue of the Muslim world, and athletes from 20 countries refrain from doing so,” said Amir, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I said that we are acting within the framework of the Iranian regime’s policy.”
The statement comes ahead of the World Judo Olympic Championships taking place in Tokyo in August.
World Champion Weighs In
Nili Block, Israel’s three-time World Champion in the Thai boxing sport of Muah Thai, told United With Israel that she was “not surprised” that the Iranians are going back on their agreement.
“The Iranians will say anything when something is in the future,” Block said. “However, now that the reality of the Olympics is upon us, of course they are going back on their word.”
Block shared with United With Israel two of her own experiences with Iranian athletes.
At a competition in Russia in 2016. Block won first place and an Iranian won third. When pictures of the Israeli and the Iranian standing on the podium together were publicized, the Iranian got into trouble.
At a university championship competition in Thailand in 2018, Block an Iranian competitor spoke warmly to Block, she said. “The girl said that she really respects me. However, if she won the next fight she would have to forfeit competing against me because her country does not allow competition with Israelis.”
Iran’s Boycott of Israeli Athletes
For decades, Iran has boycotted competing with Israeli athletes.
The May letter from Iran, on which the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was copied, came after the IJF reportedly threatened to ban the country from competing in the Tokyo Olympics.
The IJF said in a press release that the letter was received following talks about the “disturbing phenomenon” of Iranian players experiencing “sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of,” a “phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries,” i.e. Israel.
The IJF said, at the time, that it “decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.”
In the press release, it was explained, “Iran’s sports policy has long been linked to the nation’s official refusal to recognize Israel. For nearly 40 years, Iranian athletes have markedly found reason to avoid facing Israelis.”
Following the IJF’s announcement of the Iranian letter in May, Israel’s International Olympic Committee member, Alex Gilady was optimistic.
He told IJF in a telephone interview, “This is a most significant letter [by the Iranian Olympic committee and judo federation] to the attention of the International Judo Federation. Now, will come the time for implementation in the fight against discrimination in all sport.”
Iran’s renewal of its boycott against Israeli athletes halts one of the Olympics most anticipated encounters, the competition between No. 1-ranked Iranian Saeid Mollaei and second-ranked Israeli Sagi Muki.
The last international competition that took place between Israel and Iran was a wrestling match in 1983 in the Ukraine.
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