Ex-Olympic champions, retirees from sports and seriously injured athletes are being paid less than half the Iranian minimum wage in pensions and stipends – if indeed they are being paid at all, documents seen by IranWire show.
The Sports Champions and Pioneers Support Credit Fund was created in 2004 by the Khatami administration, under the auspices of the Ministry of Sports. Over time it has deviated from its original mission, with subsidiary companies created that do not follow the charter but continue to receive a budget from the Ministry.
The records seen by IranWire also show that apart from delaying payments to athletes who won medals in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the Credit Fund has been issuing gifts and benefits to non-sporting personalities, including two news reporters at the IRIB.
Just $36 a Month for Bringing Home the Gold
In May this year, Ruhollah Rostami, Iran’s Para Powerlifting champion, announced on social media that he was bidding a permanent goodbye to the Iranian Paralympic weightlifting team. He had come to this decision, he wrote, after sports officials pressured his doctor to lie to him following an injury, encouraging him to start training before he was fully recovered.
The doctor, Rostami said, had later confessed to having been coerced into signing him off three weeks early. The reason for it, he claimed, was so that his monthly stipend would not have to be stopped.
The Supreme Labor Council raised the minimum wage in Iran this year to 2.655 million tomans (about US$84 at open market exchange rates). Documents seen by IranWire indicate that all the current and ex-athletes covered by the Sports Champions and Pioneers Support Credit Fund are significantly less than the legal minimum.
Based on the available information, monthly payments to deaf athletes who won gold, silver or bronze medals at the Paralympics start at 1,010,808 tomans ($32) per month and run to a maximum of 1,113,451 tomans ($35).
IranWire has also been provided with a list from the Credit Fund entitled “Pensions of Qualified Champions and Athletes of 2020 Olympics and Paralympics”. It indicates not all of those who win medals at international contests receive any payments at all.
The list includes the names of 24 ex-Olympic and Paralympic champions. Of the 12 members of the Iran Men's National Sitting Volleyball Team that won a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, only three are listed as eligible for a stipend. Their monthly payments stand at 1,130,063 tomans ($36). Just two former wrestling champions are named on the list, each in receipt of a monthly sum of 1,176,375 tomans ($37). They and others are obliged to practice and keep competing to receive these funds, which will stop if they sustain an injury.
Ex-IRGC Sharpshooter Raking In the Biggest Payments
Javad Foroughi, a former member of the IRGC, controversially won gold in the men’s 10m air pistol contest at the Tokyo Olympics last year. News outlets affiliated with the IRGC, such as Fars, Tasnim and Varzesh 3, praised his service in Syria as an officer in the Quds Force. Ordinary Iranians were less impressed.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was later pressed to open a probe into the “sporting identity” of Javad Foroughi and his connections to the IRGC. As soon as that happened, Iran’s Sports Ministry and National Olympic Committee changed tack, emphasizing Foroughi had only been there as a nurse who had tended to the injured “on both sides of the line”.
According to the list seen by IranWire, Foroughi receives a stipend of 1,932,255 tomans ($61), considerably more than other Olympic and Paralympic champions – albeit still far short of the minimum wage.
A further, supplementary list prepared for the Credit Fund includes the names of 20 well-known Iranian athletes who won medals at the 2020 Olympics but have yet to be approved for payments by the Ministry of Sports. If approved they, too, are set to receive below-minimum payments starting at 1,115,305 tomans ($35). Notably, Javad Foroughi has been on the “approved” list since 2019, two years before he became an Olympic medalist.
Why is the IRIB Receiving Athletes’ Welfare Funds?
A separate set of records seen by IranWire shows that in 2021, the Credit Fund gifted one-off “goods baskets” containing rice, vegetable il, lentils, split peas, beans, macaroni and spices to some 289 people described as Iranian sports “pioneers”.
The list includes a field to be filled in stating which sport the person is a “pioneer” in. But there are some surprise inclusions; numbers 38, 73, 97 and 187 are men and women based in the cities of Dezful, Andisheh and Tehran who are described only as “fans”, with no particular discipline and no record in professional sports.
Employees of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting are also on the list. Entries 276 and 277 are named as Mehdi Ali-Moradi and Davoud Abedi, two reporters with the IRIB’s News Network. Their field of sporting prowess has similarly been left blank. Meanwhile, in trying economic times for Iran, many well-known athletes and sportspeople were omitted from the list.