The Tel Aviv 2019 Grand Prix Judo tournament on January 24, 2019 (Yahav Gamliel/Flash90) Yahav Gamliel/Flash90
Judo

Israel and the International Judo Federation hailed a letter from Iran saying it would end its policy of discrimination. Tehran remained silent.

By AP and United with Israel Staff

A letter from Iran over judo rules is being heralded by Israel and the International Judo Federation as a sign the Islamic Republic will allow its athletes to compete against Israelis.

However, Iranian media outlets on Sunday called the response “baseless” and “strange.” Iran’s local judo federation did not immediately answer calls for comment.

Iranian judoka, like other athletes, routinely forfeit matches with Israelis as Iran does not recognize the State of Israel.

The International Judo Federation posted the letter from Iran on Saturday night, which said Tehran would “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its nondiscrimination principle,” without elaborating.

It said in a statement that the Iranian commitment came after several rounds of talks regarding a “disturbing phenomenon” in which Iranian athletes suddenly claim “injuries” or intentionally fail their weigh-ins to avoid meeting athletes from certain countries, according to the Israel Hayom daily.

Moshe Ponte, head of the Israeli Judo Association, told The Associated Press that he welcomed “this courageous and correct decision” by the International Judo Federation (IJF) to publish the letter.

According to media reports, the IJF threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, including the Olympics, if it did not agree to compete against Israelis.

Last year, the IJF barred Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from hosting major international competitions over their refusal to allow Israelis to compete.

The UAE relented, and Israel’s national anthem was played in the country after an Israeli judoka won a gold medal.