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Iran's execution of wrestling champ ‘deeply upsetting,’ IOC says

THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) described reports confirming the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari as “deeply upsetting” amid mounting calls for sporting sanctions.

Iranian state media said on Saturday that Afkari, a national champion who was sentenced to death over the murder of a security guard during 2018 anti-government protests, had been executed. Afkari had said that he was tortured into a confession.

His death comes despite the attempted intervention of the IOC and the sport’s world governing body, United World Wrestling, with IOC president Thomas Bach having said on Wednesday that he was trying to “facilitate a solution.”

In a statement the IOC said: “The execution of wrestler Navid Afkari in Iran is very sad news. The IOC is shocked by this announcement today.

“In letters, Thomas Bach, the IOC president, had made direct personal appeals to the Supreme Leader and to the president of Iran this week and asked for mercy for Navid Afkari, while respecting the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC, together with the NOC of Iran, United World Wrestling and the National Iranian Wrestling Federation, did not achieve our goal.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Navid Afkari.”

Last week Brendan Schwab, the executive director of the World Players Association, had insisted that, in executing Afkari, Iran would be “forfeiting its right to be a part of sport’s universal community."

Schwab tweeted on Saturday: “[World Players Association] are aware of credible and heartbreaking reports that Navid Afkari was executed despite the work of so many courageous champions of human rights in sport.

"We are seeking formal confirmation. If true, we are determined to ensure Navid did not lose his life in vain.”

Meanwhile the president of the World Olympians Association (WOA), Joel Bouzou, said his organisation was “gravely upset” that efforts to spare Afkari’s life had proved unsuccessful.

Bouzou said: “On behalf of the global Olympian community WOA today expresses its profound shock and sadness at the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari.

“WOA stood with the IOC and President Thomas Bach OLY in their appeals for mercy and are gravely upset that their combined efforts were not successful.”

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