In his first interview since fleeing Iran for Germany following the World Judo Championships last week, judoka Saeid Mollaei admitted that Iranian authorities told him to throw a match in order to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki, who ultimately took the gold medal.
According to Israeli news website Mako, Mollaei told a Persian-language TV channel, “The head of the Iranian Olympic Committee and his deputy told me to lose.”
“After Sagi Muki made the final,” he recounted, “Iran put pressure on me to intentionally lose in my semi-final.”
“But I came to really compete and not to make a show,” Mollaei stated.
“I love Iran very much and I would love to continue to represent it,” he added, “but winning the medal is the most important thing for me.”
Mollaei noted that his partner lives in Germany and he has a home there.
“I did not seek asylum,” he said. “I am not a refugee. I have an apartment in Germany.”
Iran has blamed the International Judo Federation, which organized the championship, for Mollaei’s decision.
Marius Vizer, head of the IJF, confirmed that Mollaei and his family had indeed been pressured to throw a match.
Vizer added that he hopes Mollaei will be able to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In an interview with The Algemeiner last week, Sagi Muki addressed the issue of Mollaei’s snub, as well as an Egyptian judoka who refused to shake hands with him.
“It’s a sad situation,” he said, “because judo is about the connection between people.”