Iran again forfeits another Olympic competition with Israel - with no IOC penalty

Iranian Swimmer Not Punished for Failing To Swim Against Israeli
by Josh Gertenstein, New York Sun 14 Aug 2008

An Iranian swimmer who pulled out of an Olympic race with an Israeli athlete on Saturday will not be punished after International Olympic Committee official credited the Iranian's claim that he withdrew due to illness. Moments before the heats in the men's 100-meter breaststroke on Saturday, Mohammad Alirezaei backed out. He was to face a field that included Tom Be'eri of Israel.


A spokeswoman for the IOC, Giselle Davies, initially said Mr. Alirezaei could be disqualified from the Olympics if he refused to participate because of the Israeli competitor, but she said Monday that the committee has accepted Mr. Alirezaei's claim that he was ill. "He confirmed this in writing to the swimming federation. We've also spoken with the national Olympic committee and they have underlined to us that all their athletes compete here in the right spirit against athletes from any nationality," Ms. Davies told the Associated Press. "We take both the athlete and the national Olympic committee at their word on this," she said.

In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Iran withdrew a judo competitor assigned to face an Israeli. However, on Sunday an American-born Israeli who is coaching the Russian basketball team, David Blatt, struck a blow against the Iranian boycott by shaking hands with every member of the Iranian basketball squad, who may not have realized he is an Israeli.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Beijing, Guy Kivetz, had no comment on the IOC decision, but decried the action by the Iranian swimmer.

"It's not the first time and, unfortunately, it probably won't be the last time, either," Mr. Kivetz said. "We are very sorry that the athletes are involving politics in sports. I think the water in the pool and the water in the sea are just water and they are for sport not for politics. ... We don't have anything against Iranians, just the extreme Iranian regime."

In his swim on Saturday, Mr. Be'eri broke the Israeli record with a time of 1:02.42, but he failed to make the finals, finishing in 4th place.

1 comment:

Bob Kravitz, IndyStar.com said...

"Since the Islamic revolution in Iran 29 years ago, Iranian athletes have been forbidden to compete against Israelis. It happened in 2001, when an Iranian judo athlete refused to face an Israeli in an international competition. It happened in the 2004 Games in Athens, when a world-class judo athlete named Arash Miresmaeli mysteriously failed to make weight for his match against an Israeli competitor. And then it happened again here with the swimmer.

It should have gotten the entire Iranian delegation booted and banned from the games until they change their tune. Instead, the IOC's gutless lapdogs shrugged.

For the second straight games, the Iranians have made a mockery of the games, and still, the IOC refuses to do what it has long needed to do: Throw them out.

Olympic dreams die in different ways, all of them painful. At least Israel's Tom Beeri had a chance. His Iranian competitor never had a shot.

For that, the Iranians should be run out of the Olympic movement, sooner rather than later."