ADL Calls on Olympic Committee to Investigate Iran's Refusal to Compete With Israel
Update: In a letter to ADL, officials from the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and USA Judo issued a statement condeming the incident. "USA Judo and USA Judo's 2004 Olympic Team Leader Buck Wessell condemn any and all forms of discrimination with regard to a country or person on grounds of race, religion or gender and uphold the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Movement as set forth in the Olympic Charter," the statement read. "It is our emphatic position that any form of discrimination is abhorrent."
New York, NY, August 17, 2004 … Calling an Iranian judo athlete's refusal to compete with an Israeli athlete for political reasons "unsportsmanlike" and "contrary to the values of the Olympic Games," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on the International Olympic Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether outside pressure played a role in influencing his decision.
"We strongly urge the International Olympic Committee to conduct a thorough investigation into this incident and to disqualify the entire Iranian Olympic Team if the evidence indicates that Arash Miresmaeili was pressured to withdraw from the competition for political reasons," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The unsportsmanlike behavior of the Iranian team in this instance is unacceptable and contrary to the values of tolerance, solidarity, peace and friendship that are the hallmarks of the Olympic Games."
The Iranian judo athlete pulled out of the Olympic judo tournament after refusing to compete with an Israeli athlete, Ehud Vaks, at the Summer Games in Athens. While officially disqualified from competition for being overweight, Mr. Miresmaeili told reporters that he refused "to play against an Israeli rival to sympathize with the oppressed Palestinian people."
In a letter to Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, ADL questioned whether other factors may have influenced the decision: "It is doubtful that Mr. Miresmaeili made this decision on his own, given the Iranian National Olympic Committee's explanation that 'this is the general policy of our country to refrain from competing against athletes of the Zionist regime, and Arash Miresmaeili has observed this policy.'"
Moreover, ADL pointed out that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Iranian Ambassador to Greece Mehdi Mohtashami had commended Miresmaeili for his "courageous move to refuse to compete with a judoka from the Zionist regime."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.