Joe Meli earned the rank of shodan in judo at the age of 16 years. He won two Canadian junior and nine Canadian senior championships between 1973 and 1988. Joe Meli qualified to represent Canada at the 1976, 1980 (Canada boycotted), 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games; at three World Championships; at five Pan American Games; and, at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. He has won a total of three gold, six silver, and six bronze medals in international judo competitions.
Joe Meli is an accomplished hockey player, too, having scored 47 points, including 19 goals, as a centre and right winger for the Lethbridge Broncos of the Western Hockey League in the 1975/76 season. In 1975, he was selected as the Most Valuable Player, while playing as a member of the gold medal Alberta Hockey Team, at the Canada Games held in Lethbridge. He is a member of the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame.