IRIJF President Arash Miresmaeili, right, described the past four years during the ban as "painful" at the organisation's AGM ©IRIJF

The Iran Judo Federation (IRIJF) has announced the end of its four-year ban as four judoka look set to compete under the country’s flag at this month's Asian Games in Hangzhou.

An IRIJF Annual General Meeting (AGM) was staged in Tehran today where the organisation’s President Arash Miresmaeili revealed that its suspension by the International Judo Federation (IJF) was over after four "painful" years.

Miresmaeili said he forgave "all the people who harassed me and played with my reputation" during that period and declared that the "judo of the world saluted the judo of Iran" today as reported by Islamic Republic News Agency.

The IJF suspended the IRIJF after Saeid Mollaei was ordered to withdraw from the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo to avoid facing an opponent from Israel.

An "indefinite" ban had originally been imposed before this was reduced to four years following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"We had a very difficult and painful four years and now we hold our heads high that we stood by our beliefs and values and tried to keep Iran's judo alive," said Miresmaeili.

Miresmaeili also expressed his pride in being able to send a four-strong team to Hangzhou 2022, including Abolfazl Mahmoudi, Mehdi Fathipour and Qasim Baghchaghi in the men’s event and Maryam Berbat in the women’s competition.

"Today, three male judokas and Maryam Berbat in the women's division are going to Hangzhou, which shows our efforts in four years of suspension," added Miresmaeili.

"I forgive all the people who harassed me and played with my reputation in these four years, because from today the suspension is over and we will follow the programmes with more strength.

"Today, the judo of the world saluted the judo of Iran, and I am proud to say that we sacrificed for dear Iran.

"I say to the judokas sent to Hangzhou, regardless of any result, you are dear to us and I know that you will go to the field with all your strength."

Iran has been banned by the IJF since 2019 when Saeid Mollaei was ordered to pull out of the World Championships in Tokyo to avoid facing an Israeli opponent ©Getty Images
Iran has been banned by the IJF since 2019 when Saeid Mollaei was ordered to pull out of the World Championships in Tokyo to avoid facing an Israeli opponent ©Getty Images

The IRIJF AGM was attended by Iran’s Deputy Sports Minister Maryam Kazemipour.

"We congratulate the judo community on the lifting of the suspension," said Kazemipour.

"In the two years that I have been in the Ministry of Sports, I have always followed this issue from the head of the Federation.

"I hope Iran's judokas will shine in the upcoming Asian Games and competitions, and I wish success to Maryam, the lady judoka of our country, who participates in international judo competitions with an Islamic hijab."

The IJF sanctioned the IRIJF following threats allegedly levelled at Mollaei during the 2019 World Championships.

Mollaei, the defending world champion, could have faced Israel’s Sagi Muki at the event only to pull out before facing Russian Khasan Khalmurzaev in the third round.

The judoka alleged that he received a call from the Iranian First Deputy Minister of Sport, Davar Zani, ordering him to withdraw from the competition to avoid a potential contest between Iran and Israel.

He also claimed Zani made threats against him and his family.

Since the scandal in Tokyo, Mollaei has refused to return to Iran and instead sought asylum in Germany.

He also switched allegiances to Mongolia, representing them at the re-arranged 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where he claimed a silver medal.

The IJF had initially given Iran an indefinite suspension, but this was lifted by the CAS after it was ruled to have no basis in the International Federation’s regulations.

It was then announced by the IJF in April 2021 that Iran had been hit with a four-year ban, starting from September 18 in 2019.

The IJF Disciplinary Commission concluded that there had been "repeated" and "very severe breaches" of the organisation’s statutes, ruling that the sanctions were "proportionate to the extremely severe offences committed by IRIJF".

IJF President Marius Vizer said in May that Iran would be
IJF President Marius Vizer said in May that Iran would be "welcome back" when their suspension lifted ©IJF

Miresmaeili was re-elected as head of the IRIJF in March this year, despite being at the centre of the controversy which led to the organisation being suspended.

Last year, an audio file emerged which allegedly showed Miresmaeili instructing the coach of Mollaei to lose a bout.

Speaking exclusively to insidethegames in May, IJF President Marius Vizer claimed the country had been "missed" at events over the past four years and confirmed that Iranian athletes would be eligible to return once the sanctions had ended.

"The sanction for Iran will finish in September," Vizer told insidethegames.

"They are welcome back.

"I hope they do their best to respect the rules and do not repeat the past inconvenient incidents."

insidethegames has contacted the IJF for comment on the lifting of Iran’s ban.