Iranian judoku Saeid Mollaei 'afraid' after refusing to quit World Championships

He alleges he was ordered to pull out to ensure he did not face and Israeli competitor

In this picture taken on August 28, 2019, Iran's Saeid Mollaei (in white) fights against Belgium's Matthias Casse during the semi-final of the men's under 81kg category during the 2019 Judo World Championships at the Nippon Budokan, a venue for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo. Iranian judo star Saeid Mollaei, who claimed he was ordered to deliberately lose a world championship fight, could compete under a refugee flag at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, officials said on September 1. / AFP / Charly TRIBALLEAU
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An Iranian judo world champion says he is afraid to return home after he disobeyed government orders to withdraw from a tournament to avoid competing against an Israeli.

An Iranian team coach said that he was called by Iran's Deputy Sports Minister Davar Zani during the world championships in Tokyo, who requested that Saeid Mollaei was withdrawn from the event to avoid the prospect of him facing Israel's Sagi Muki later in the tournament.

According to an article published on the International Judo Federation's website, the minister allegedly threatened the athlete's family and Mollaei reportedly collapsed and burst into tears after the call.

However, he continued to compete in the 81 kilogram category, defeating Russian competitor Khasan Khalmurzaev and Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier to head to the semifinals, before losing to Belgium's Matthias Casse.

Israeli athlete Muki later beat Casse to win the gold medal.

Mollaei claims that the Iranian Olympic Committee President Reza Salehi Amiri called before his semi-final match and said that homeland security were at his parent’s house, which he said was verified by friends who were nearby.

No he says he fears for his life and for his family, and feels he is unable to return to Iran.

"I am an athlete, not a politician nor been ever involved in politics," he said.

"I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid. I am afraid of what might happen to my family and to myself."

Media reports suggest that Mollaei has since sought asylum in Germany.