The German Canoe Association welcomed the outcome of the Saeid Fazoula case ©German Canoe Association

Athleten Deutschland has called for International Federations (IFs) to have harmonised regulations regarding the nomination of athletes to the Refugee Olympic Team, following the case of canoeist Saeid Fazloula.

German broadcaster ARD reported that Fazloula had been prevented from securing a nomination to the Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) had initially refused to nominate Fazloula due to him representing Germany at international level, which under their statutes considers him to have found a host country.

Fazloula has been living in Germany as a recognised political refugee without German citizenship, after fleeing from Iran.

ARD reported that Fazoula had fled to Germany via the Balkans, after the Iranian regime accused him of turning away from Islam after he took a selfie in front of the Milan Cathedral following a World Cup event.

Fazoula would reportedly have required Iranian approval for him to be able to compete for the Refugee Olympic Team.

The ICF changed their rules following the story, with the organisation's vice-president and German Canoe Association President Thomas Konietzko having requested changes.

"In the last few weeks I have been promoting my position behind the scenes and that of the German federation, that the rules for starting an athlete for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Team have to be interpreted differently than those for changing countries," Thomas Konietzko told ARD.

"In the end, a majority of the Board followed me and the ICF decided that the International Federation would propose to the IOC that Saeid be admitted to the IOC Refugee Team.

"All nations will now be written to and asked whether there may be refugees in other countries who are eligible for a start in the Refugee Team and if this is the case, they will request a corresponding proof of performance."

The Refugee Olympic Team debuted at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
The Refugee Olympic Team debuted at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

Athleten Deutschland has now called for harmonised regulations among IFs, citing the example of World Taekwondo.

World Taekwondo allowed Dina Pouryounes, also from Iran, to join the Refugee Olympic Team and also lets her compete in other international competitions for her host country, The Netherlands.

Around two thirds of the 33 IFs are reported to lack clear rules for refugees.

Athleten Deutschland praised the Refugee Olympic Team as an "outstanding project which gives hope to refugees worldwide", but said standard rules are required.

"The case of Saeid Fazloula clearly shows that the IOC and International Sports Federations have a special responsibility and duty to protect athletes who have become refugees," said Maximilian Klein, Athleten Deutschland's representative for international sports policy.

"They must now urgently bring an end to the current hotchpotch within the federations before the Tokyo Games.

"It is unacceptable that refugee athletes have unequal chances of being admitted to the refugee team just because they are in the wrong federation."

Athleten Deutschland added that it hopes the IOC will now allow Fazloula to start at the Olympic Games.

Members of the IOC unanimously endorsed the formation of the refugee team for the second consecutive Summer Games back in 2018.

The team is expected to be larger than the 10-strong outfit which participated at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC has awarded refugee athlete scholarships to inspire athletes as they attempt to secure places on the team, which includes the 10 members of the Rio 2016 squad.