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Another Iranian Athlete Fails To Return From Foreign Competition

An Iranian mountaineer has failed to return from a competition in France, apparently becoming the latest in a growing number of Iranian athletes to defect while abroad, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The president of the Alpine Club of Iran, Abbas Sabetian, said on February 8 that one member of the team that went to take part in an ice-climbing festival in January had left the team a day after arriving in France and never returned. Sabetian did not disclose the athlete's name.

In the last three months, four other Iranian athletes have sought asylum in western countries.

In January, Payam Moradi, a member of Iran's karate team, applied for asylum in France.
The previous month, Vahid Sarlak, a member of the national judo team, asked for asylum in Germany. He said at the time that his fellow teammate, Ehsan Rajabi, had also requested asylum in the United States.

Last November, Mohammad Hassan Ebrahaimi, a member of Iran's national fencing team, sought asylum in France.

Sports journalist Mehdi Rostampour told Radio Farda the number of athletes seeking asylum has risen since the crackdown following Iran's disputed June 2009 election.

Rostampour, who frequently accompanied Iran's national teams in their trips abroad, said that "since the election, there has been no trip during which an athlete, a coach, or referee didn't decide not to return to Iran."

He added that's why Iran's Physical Education Organization has asked sports federations to restrict the number of trips made to countries which grant asylum.