IOC accepts Iran swimmer no-show against Israeli
11 August 2008
BEIJING – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Monday that it accepted Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei did not swim in his 100-metre breaststroke heat owing to sickness and not because Israel’s Tom Beeri was also competing.
"The athlete has withdrawn because of sickness. He confirmed this in writing to his federation," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies told a news conference.
"We’ve also spoken to the (Iranian) National Olympic Committee. They have underlined to us that all athletes compete here in the right spirit, against athletes of any nationality. We have taken both the athlete and the National Olympic Committee at their word on this."
The Iranian official in charge of the swimming team in Beijing, Wahid Muradi, said that Alirezaei had suddenly been taken ill with a stomach bug and had been hospitalised.
However, Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported Alirezaei did not turn up owing to the presence of an Israeli competitor. ISNA gave no further details and refrained from using the term boycott.
The agency had reported earlier that the Iranian National Olympic Committee (INOC) had given the green light for Alirezaei to attend. Tehran observers believe that the initial INOC decision had been eventually vetoed by the Iranian administration.
There has been no meeting of athletes from Iran and Israel since the 1979 Islamic revolution and Iranian athletes have always rejected competing alongside Israelis as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians and therefore faced disqualification on several occasions in international sport.
During the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran’s judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili, one of the country’s biggest hopes for a gold medal, refused to compete against Ehud Vaks of Israel in the first round.
He revoked his boycott threat but did not participate because he was too heavy at the weigh-in.
The IOC has the right to kick countries out of the Olympics if their athletes refuse to compete against others for political or religious reasons.
[dpa / Expatica]
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