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Olympic Official Says Iran Has Pledged To End Ban Against Israeli Athletes

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends a press conference at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. FILE PHOTO

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has said that since the Islamic Republic of Iran has sent a letter assuring that it will end its "discriminatory" policy against Israeli athletes, the IOC has not suspended Tehran.

Iran's National Olympic Committee (NOCIR) has promised in a letter to "fully comply with the Olympic Charter" in the future, IOC president reiterated. It is not clear when the letter was sent.

Although the Islamic Republic has banned Iranian athletes from competing against their Israeli counterparts, which is an outright violation of the IOC charter, it has so far managed to escape punishment.

Furthermore, Bach maintained the letter was signed by two officials; the Islamic Republic Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Massoud Soltanifar, and NOCIR president, Reza Salehi Amiri.

However, an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked news website, Fars, immediately cited NOCIR officials on Thursday, January 16, as saying that the committee has not signed the alleged letter addressed to the IOC.

Nonetheless, the NOCIR website reports that Thomas Bach had a meeting with Soltanifar and Salehi Amiri last Monday, and discussed several topics, specifically the Olympic Charter with them.

"Iran sent a similar letter to the International Judo Federation (IJF), copied to the IOC, in May of last year, where the nation vowed to end its decades-long boycott against Israeli athletes," the Insidegames website reported, adding, "But the Iranian Government then allegedly ordered (Iranian judo superstar) Saeid Mollaei to lose at the World Championships in Tokyo last August, to ensure he did not face an Israeli in the under-81 kilograms class, prompting the IJF to ban the country."

The 27-year-old former world champion, Mollaei, maintained that Iran's Judo Federation head, Arash Miresmaeili, and the NOCIRI President, Salehi Amiri, ordered him to withdraw from the competition.

Immediately after his forced defeat in the World Championship in Tokyo, Mollaei traveled to Germany, and in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda declared that he had decided not to return to Iran.

Mollaei also revealed that on three occasions, he had been forced to avoid fighting Israeli athletes, presenting them with walk-over victories.

Later, he sought refuge in Germany before being naturalized in Mongolia and cleared by the IJF to compete for his new country.

Mollaei's tragedy left the International Judo Federation (IJF) with no option other than banning Iran from participation in the world judo events.

According to "Insidegames", IOC President Bach has stressed that he was in contact with the IJF to shed further light on what happened at the World Championships and whether Iran's National Olympic Committee (NOCIR) was involved.

Last month Bach praised Tehran's support for "principles of political neutrality in sport" in a letter to the country's President Hassan Rouhani.

Furthermore, Bach has disclosed that IOC has relayed Iran's "signed commitment" to the IJF, hoping to pave the way for Iran to return to the international judo competitions.

"We have forwarded these assurances to the IJF, and they are, at this moment in time, discussing among themselves how to proceed there and whether this assurance is enough, or whether they would need more evidence, Bach announced, adding, "This is happening in close cooperation with the IOC and the IJF, in other words, this is an ongoing procedure where no final decision has been taken yet."

The news concerning Iran's commitment to the IOC Charter is published at a time that the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly praised Iranians athletes for avoiding their Israeli counterparts in the world events.