Former world champion Saeid Mollaei has revealed he is seeking asylum after confirming Iranian officials threatened to hurt him and his family if he did not withdraw or deliberately lose at the International Judo Federation (IJF) World Championships last week.
The world judo governing body revealed today that Mollaei is now too fearful to return home to Iran after speaking out about the situation.
The world number one at men's under-81 kilogram level, Mollaei was due to face Sagi Muki of Israel in the final in the Japanese capital.
For years, Iranian athletes have been prohibited from competing in any sport against Israel.
From questionable injuries, to throwing matches, Iranian athletes across all sports have been ordered to crush their own dreams.
In May this year, Iran's National Olympic Committee had signed a letter with the IJF, promising they would "fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle" in future competitions, although NOC President Reza Salehi Amiri later made comments to national media suggesting they would go back on this pledge.
Mollaei has claimed he was willing to fight Muki at the Nippon Budokan, in what would have been a historic first meeting between the two highest ranked judokas in their weight category.
Both Mollaei and Muki began the day strongly, eliminating all their opponents by ippon, and looked likely to meet in the final.
Before Mollaei's third round fight against the Olympic champion, Russian Khasan Khalmurzaev, he was called by the Iranian First Deputy Minister of Sport, Davar Zani, who ordered him to withdraw from the competition to avoid a potential contest between Iran and Israel.
Mollaei also claimed Zani also made threats against him and his family.
According to the IJF, Mollaei collapsed and burst into tears.
He was given assistance by IJF officials, with Executive Commitee member Abdullo Muradov describing the fear and upset Mollaei was experiencing.
"I spent the day with him, I escorted him everywhere, helped him with translation," Muradov said.
"I saw the fear in his eyes, the terror of having to face the consequences of a situation that was beyond his control.
"He was totally helpless.
"It's terrible to witness this, these are situations that should not happen for any athlete or for anyone.”
Mollaei met with IJF President Marius Vizer, who assured him of his full support.
He fought on and reached the semi-finals, despite the earlier calls to withdraw.
According to the IJF, a delegation from the Iranian Embassy came to the venue, with one delegate trespassing in the athlete warm up area to approach and intimidate him.
They said Mollaei was then called by Amiri, who warned Iranian National Security were at his parent’s house, with friends also texting him to confirm officials had threatened his father.
Mollaei fought in the second semi-final, after Muki beat Egypt's Mohamed Abdelaal in the first match.
Sporting a giant bandage around his head from a cut to his ear, Mollaei was far more sluggish in his final-four match than he had been in the preliminary fights earlier in the day.
Mollaei, the reigning world champion after winning the under-81kg competition in Baku last year barely attempted a judo technique against Belgium's Matthias Casse before being defeated in the golden score period.
Mollaei then fought for bronze against world number 29 Luka Maisuradze of Georgia, and was again passive in defeat.
He has now bravely spoken out for the first time, and finally confirmed that he has deliberately thrown fights and faked injuries previously on the orders of his country.
He claimed he simply wants to fight any opponent, regardless of politics, to pursue his dream of being an Olympic champion.
"I could have been the world champion today," Mollaei said.
"I've been training and putting in a lot of effort.
"Today I fought and won against an Olympic champion and other opponents, I beat all of them.
"Because of the law of my country and the prudence it requires, I was obliged to not fight against my Israeli opponent, this is the law.
"Today, the National Olympic Committee of Iran and the Sport Minister told me not to compete, they rang me and wanted me to not compete.
"I asked why, and they said this is the law and those who do not comply with it will certainly have problems.
"I was afraid for myself and my family so I did not compete.
"For the bronze, I gave only 10 per cent so that I would comply with the law of my country.
"I am a fighter, I want to compete whenever I can, but I live in a country that does not permit me to do so - if I had competed, it would have caused a lot of problems.
"I am an athlete, not a politician, and I have never been involved in politics.
"I want to comply with the Olympic Charter, and I thank the IJF President who told me he would guarantee and help me go to the Olympics, so my dream can come true and I can become Olympic champion."
A statement from the IJF said Mollaei cannot return to his country and faces uncertainty regarding the future of his family.
He believed to be seeking refugee in Germany.
The IJF have shown their support by launching the hashtag on Twitter #ISupportMollaei.
"All he wanted was to be a judoka and become a champion, to represent his country with pride in international competitions, face the best and give his best, like everyone else and play fair," the IJF said.
"Mollaei lost a competition in Tokyo but he chose judo and won the contest of his life, by ippon.
"His currently under risk and the IJF is looking forward to finding the best solution to allow a champion to continue to do what he does best: to compete no matter what and without any kind of discrimination.
"He won’t be alone, the whole judo family will stand next to him."