Iranian judoka forced to throw matches to avoid facing Israelis gets refugee status in Germany


(JTA) — Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who fled to Germany after he said he was forced to throw matches at the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo to not have to face an Israeli opponent, has been granted “recognized refugee” status.

The status allows Mollaei to live legally in Germany, where he has resumed his training with an eye toward competing on the so-called refugee team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the International Judo Federation reported.

Secreted out of Tokyo to Germany during the World Championships in August with the help of International Judo Federation chief Marius Vizer, Mollaei confirmed that Iranian authorities and the Iran Judo Federation ordered him to withdraw from competing in such matches — something that has been suspected for decades.

Mollaei threw his semifinal match so he would not have to face Israel’s Sagi Muki, who went on to win the gold medal at the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo in the under-81 kilogram (179 pounds) category. He has been accused of faking injuries and intentionally losing judo matches in the past to avoid facing the Israeli

Mollaei must now obtain travel papers and continue to participate in competitions on the World Judo Tour in order to collect points on the World Ranking List so that he can make it to the Olympics.

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