TOKYO (AP) — A judo world champion from Iran says he is afraid to return home after disobeying orders from the government to withdraw from the world championships in Tokyo to avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.
The International Judo Federation says Saeid Mollaei was ordered to withdraw from the competition by Iranian deputy sports minister Davar Zani. The IJF says Mollaei was then called by Iranian Olympic Committee president Reza Salehi Amiri, who said security services were at his parents' house.
Mollaei was the defending champion and could have faced Israeli athlete Sagi Muki in the final. Mollaei lost in the semifinals and did not have to face Muki, who won gold.
Mollaei says "I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid."