ATHENS - Iranian world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili, who was suspected of intentionally gaining body weight to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent at the Olympics, will not be punished by the International Judo Federation (IJF).
The IJF said Thursday that the 23-year-old Iranian had denied suggesting he would boycott his opening match against Israel's Ehud Vaks as a gesture of support for the Palestinian cause.
"As the IJF has no rule for penalising overweight athletes, the IJF executive committee decided not to take any sanction against Arash Miresmaeili," the world judo governing body said in a statement.
A special IJF panel was convened to examine the case and the double world under-66kg featherweight champion was interviewed for three hours on Wednesday.
The IJF statement quoted Miresmaeili as saying he had "made no statement of any sort to any press."
But he stirred controversy last week when he was quoted by the national Iranian news agency IRNA as saying: "Although I have trained for months and was in good shape I refused to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine and I do not feel upset at all."
When Miresmaeili showed up at the weigh-in early Sunday, he was five kilograms overweight, according to sources, and was disqualified from the competition.
The IJF set up the commission, made up of experts from various continental federations, to see if Miresmaeili, who carried his country's flag in the opening ceremony, had deliberately refused to make the weight.
In Tehran, Iran president Mohammad Khatami heaped praise on their judoka saying his protest would have been justified despite the heavily-favoured Miresmaeili giving up the chance to become the first Iranian to win an Olympic judo medal.
It was not the first time Iranians have declined to fight against Israeli opponents.
At the 2001 world judo championships, Mahed Malekmohammdi refused to face Yoel Razvozov while Asian champion Masoud Haji Akhoundzade also pulled out of a planned clash with Israeli lightweight Zvi Shafran.