GOP senator seeks Olympic ban on Iran

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bar Iran from this summer’s Paris Olympics on Wednesday, citing human rights allegations against the country.

Blackburn said Iran’s “evil regime” should not be allowed to compete on the world stage.

Iran “systematically victimizes its own citizens, particularly women and girls. Violence permeates every aspect of life for Iranian women,” she wrote in a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach.

“Athletes are not immune from persecution in Iran. In fact, Iran has only one female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh,” she continued. “This disparity is not due to a lack of talent. Rather, it is a direct result of the oppression and abuse female athletes in Iran face — the very oppression and abuse that forced Alizadeh to later defect.”

The IOC has barred countries from the games before, most recently banning Russia and Belarus from the Paris Olympics in October because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia was previously barred from competition due to an athlete doping scandal.

Russian and Belorussian athletes will be allowed to compete in the games as “individual neutral athletes,” the IOC said. Blackburn requested that Iran’s athletes be treated the same way.

“The Regime should not gain any glory from the Games until they meet the standards and ideals of Olympism by allowing all Iranian athletes — regardless of gender or political persuasion — to practice their sport freely and without persecution,” Blackburn wrote.

The organization has previously allowed other groups of independent athletes to compete, including a delegation of refugee athletes, mostly from South Sudan, in 2016. A larger 2020 version of the team for the Tokyo Olympics included multiple athletes born in Iran.

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