The U.S. State Department has denied Iranian media reports that the United States deported the Iranian wrestling team ahead of a Sunday meet in Los Angeles. A State Department official tells VOA's Persian News Network that U.S. authorities had nothing to do with their departure.
Iranian wrstlers departing at airport
The wrestlers abruptly returned home after beating the American team in an exhibition Wednesday at Grand Central Station in New York City.
None of the 18 Iranian wrestlers was allowed to speak to VOA on the record. Sources say political pressure at home and fears that their appearance in Los Angeles could spark anti-Iranian protests, however, were reasons for their early departure
Watch related video of Iranian wrstlers departing at airport:
This was the first U.S. appearance by the Iranian wresting team in 10 years. The exhibitions were aimed at drawing attention to the ancient sport after the International Olympic Committee decided to drop wrestling from the Summer Games in 2020.
USA Wrestling said it was grateful to the Iranian Wrestling Federation for its participation in an "outstanding competition" in New York. USA Wrestling said the Iranians have assured it that they remain committed to keeping the sport in the Olympics.
In the absence of the Iranians, USA Wrestling announced it will bring Russian and Canadian Olympians to face the Americans in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Photos: Iran joins US charity wrestling event in New York - Iranian wrestlers participated in a New York charity event dubbed "The Rumble on Rails" at Grand Central Station, facing off against their U.S. and Russian adversaries on May 15, with Iran defeating the U.S. 6 to 1. 5/16/13
Photos: Teams From U.S., Iran, Russia Back Olympic Wrestling - Wrestlers from the United States, Iran, and Russia have appeared jointly at the United Nations to promote the value of wrestling. The teams, which are in New York for a wrestling exhibition on May 15 at New York's Grand Central Station railway terminal, hope to apply pressure on the International Olympic Committee to keep their sport in the Olympics. 5/15/13
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