Tokyo (AFP)

2018 World Champion Saeid Mollaei claimed Sunday that he was pressured by the Iranian authorities to lose his semi-final and fight for third place in less than 81kg at the Tokyo Judo Worlds in order to avoid meeting an Israeli. in the final on Wednesday.

"I deliberately lost them, 100%," said the 27-year-old judoka to Iran International, an Iranian opposition channel based in London.

"Mr. (Reza) Salehi Amiri (President of the Iranian Olympic Committee) and then Mr. (Mohammad Reza) Davarzani (Deputy Minister of Sports of Iran) called me and said: + Mr. Mollaei, do not fight Make sure that the International Federation does not realize it and there will be no problem, "Mollaei added.

The objective: to avoid meeting in the final the Israeli Sagi Muki, who finally won the gold medal, and let slip the bronze medal to avoid crossing the new world champion on the podium.

Israel's head coach Moshe Fonti delivered a similar version to the Times of Israel: "Iranian intelligence agents have gone to his home in Iran and the judo room to warn him."

After a smooth morning, the defeats of the experienced Mollaei had surprised the observers. In February, in the quarter-finals of the tournament in Paris, he had already been beaten by ippon after 18 seconds of fight against a modest Kazakh 21 years, while Muki appeared in the next round.

Originally from Tehran, the Iranian left Tokyo for Berlin, where he is currently. "I've been here for a few days," he said, "I was not well, because a world medal is an athlete's dream, I came here to avoid rumors for a moment , and I asked the International Federation to help me go to the Olympic Games (from Tokyo in 2020). "

A help that the International Judo Federation (IFJ) has already addressed, as its president Marius Vizer told AFP on Sunday: "We will do our best to participate in the Olympic Games. later in which team, there are different options, but it will include one of them for the Olympics ".

"It's our mission to protect our athletes, it's clear," he added, assuring that it was a matter of "sporting values" and not politics, refusing to say more about it. waiting for the publication on Monday of a statement of the IFJ.

- Possible sanctions against the Iranian Federation -

The judoka said he was "sorry to maybe never be able to compete for Iran again".

For his part, the Iranian news agency Fars accused Mollaei of planning his defection, citing Iranian judo coach Majed Zarian: "Everything has been settled in advance. help."

Vizer has also announced an emergency meeting this week to determine whether Mollaei and his family have been subjected to coercion or political threats, which could lead to sanctions against the Iranian judo federation.

Iran does not recognize the State of Israel and similar cases to Mollaei have already occurred in the past. In 2017, judoka coach Alireza Karimi was filmed shouting "You must lose, the Israeli wins" to his protégé, in a video that became viral at the time.

Karimi had been suspended for six months for rigging his fight, his coach two years.

© 2019 AFP