Iranian rowing Asian gold medalist Bahman Nasiri has left the national team as he emigrated to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The head of Iran’s canoeing and rowing federation, Alireza Sohrabian, said on Saturday that Nasiri wanted to be employed by the federation, but it didn’t happen, making him leave the team.
He had left Iran before but returned to the country following promises by authorities.
Nasiri had pocketed a gold medal for the Islamic Republic in men’s single scull and a bronze in quad sculls category at the 2019 Asian Rowing Cup.
It is not yet clear whether he will be representing Azerbaijan in international competitions.
About 30 Iranian athletes in recent years have defected from Iranian national teams and sought asylum in other countries, including Judo champion Saeid Mollaei, Greco-Roman national team wrestler Ali Arsalan, and many others, due to a lack of attention, threats and corruption in their federations as well as Iran’s policy of not allowing athlete to compete against Israel. For women mandatory hijab is also an issue.
Also on Saturday, judoka Mohammad Rashnonezhad, another Iranian judo champion who left the country, played against an Israeli opponent as a member of the refugees’ team of International Judo Federation, something he couldn’t do as an Iranian athlete.
Last week, karate champion Sajjad Ganjzadeh criticized the Islamic Republic for not allowing athletes to play matches against Israeli competitors, saying, "We cannot tolerate this anymore. Not competing is more difficult than competing”.