Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran's Khamenei Tells Olympic Medalists That Athletes Must Boycott Sports With Israelis

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments to Iran's medalists from the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian athletes that they must continue to refrain from playing competitive sports against Israelis, even if they are disciplined by international bodies for it.

"Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal," Khamenei told a reception for Iran's medalists from the Tokyo Games on September 18.

“The genocidal, illegal Zionist regime attempts to gain some legitimacy by appearing in international athletic competitions. The world’s arrogant powers and their cohorts [the West] assist and support them in this,” he added.

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Iran does not recognize the state of Israel and its athletes often forfeit matches or don’t participate when they could face an Israeli opponent.

In response, some international sporting bodies have taken disciplinary action against Iranian sports for discriminatory conduct.

In one of the more prominent cases, the International Judo Federation (IJF) this year imposed a four-year ban on Iran from the sport because Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei left the Iranian team in August 2019, claiming he was ordered to throw matches rather than risk facing an Israeli opponent.

Mollaei fled to Germany in 2019 and competed for Mongolia in the Tokyo Olympics, winning a silver medal for his adopted country.

Khamenei also promised to support Iranian or Muslim athletes that are disciplined by international bodies for boycotting athletic competitions with Israelis.

Khamenei instructed "the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined."

He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible match-up against an Israeli opponent. He was then suspended from the international competition.

With reporting by AFP
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.