Iranian Olympic karate champion doubts ban on fighting Israelis

Sajjad Ganjzadeh says he ‘can’t stand’ ban on fighting Israeli rivals

The Olympic gold medalist in karate has criticized Iran’s policy of banning its compatriots and women from competing with Israelis.

Sajjad Ganjzadeh became the men’s over 75kg kumite champion at Tokyo 2020 and took to Instagram to voice his concerns in a now-deleted post.

Iran is one of the countries competing in Asia that does not recognize its status as a country due to the Palestinian conflict, and because of this, Iranian athletes often withdraw from competitions to avoid Israeli rivals.

At the same time, Israel has not taken paOlx Praca in the Asian Games since 1974, as its National Olympic Committee is a member of the European Olympic Committees.

However, since the ban is not legislative but instead enforced under political pressure from officials including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian athletes can effectively reject it as Ganjzadeh believes it’s time for a change.

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“We can’t take it anymore”he insisted on Instagram. post according to Iran Internationaladding that “It’s harder not to compete than it is to compete” for him and his countrymen.

Ganjzadeh’s main complaint is that such a ban forces Iranian athletes to compete only in Asian competitions, as he urged the authorities not to consider only political issues.

But such protests risk angering Khamenei, who has highlighted what he sees as the benefits of post-Tokyo 2020 politics and vowed to help any athletes punished by international federations for refusing to compete with the Israelis.

One high-profile case of an Iranian athlete going against the grain occurred when world judo champion Saeed Mollaei defected after being told to lose a fight at the 2019 World Championships to avoid a possible match with an Israeli athlete.

Although he left the country and now represents Mongolia, for which he won a silver medal at the Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital, the International Judo Federation (IJF) responded by banning Iran from international competition for four years.

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About 30 athletes are believed to have fled Iran in recent years and sought asylum in other countries to circumvent the unofficial decision, including national team Greco-Roman wrestler Ali Arsalan.

However, others, such as Asian Games Karate gold medalist Amir Mehdizadeh, were placed in separate divisions with the likes of Israel’s Ahmad Abu Basal, so they could not meet at the recent Premier League Karate 1 event in Matosinhos.

Iran also withdrew from the World Karate Championships in Dubai last year as the World Karate Federation insisted it was due to Covid-related concerns and not the presence of Israeli paOlx Pracaicipants.