‘Gut Infection’ Denies Iranian Chance to Compete in Olympics Against Israeli

Patrick Goodenough | July 26, 2012 | 2:52am EDT
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A men's judo event at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. (Photo: London2012)

(CNSNews.com) – So much for the Olympic spirit. Just days after U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced the traditional Olympic Truce – for people and nations to “set aside their differences” during London 2012 – news emerged that the one Iranian athlete likely to face an Israeli in competition has withdrawn with a “gut infection.”

Iran and a number of other Islamic counties have pulled athletes from international competitions in the past rather than face Israelis, but International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge warned recently that “sanctions will be taken” if any athlete withdraws from a competition without an explanation that is upheld by an independent medical board.

Javad Mahjoub of Iran (Photo: London 2012)

Iranian Javad Mahjoub qualified in the same half-heavyweight judo category as an Israeli, Ariel Ze’evi, who participated in the last three Olympics, won the bronze medal in Athens 2004, and is the 2012 European champion. The half-heavyweight category competition is scheduled for August 2.

But Iranian Sports Medicine Federation head Lotfali Pour-Kazemi said this week Mahjoub’s condition required a 10-day antibiotic course and he would not be able to compete. An Iranian judo website quoted him as saying the judoka was experiencing “weakness, nausea and vomiting.”

Mahjoub’s name still appeared Thursday on the Iranian national Olympic committee (NOC) list of 54 competitors at the London games.

During the Judo World Cup in Tashkent in 2011, Mahjoub was lined up in a head-to-head against another Israeli, Or Sasson, but refused to compete.

Ariel Ze’evi of Israel (Photo: London 2012)

For his part, Ze’evi has been on the receiving end of an anti-Israel boycott before, when a Tunisian withdrew rather than taken him on during world judo championships in 2001. Ze’evi won silver.

Iranians withdrew from events pitting them against Israelis in the last two Olympic Games, in Athens 2004 (judo) and Beijing 2008 (swimming).

The Olympic Charter states, “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

“We have just told all the national Olympic committees that we expect all the athletes to respect the schedule of competition and not to pull out without a good reason for competition against an athlete of another country,” Rogge told the London Guardian last month.

“If nation A does not appear at the competition against nation B we will ask for explanations,” he said. “If the explanation is not satisfactory and valid at the end of it and is not credible then we will go into cross-examination by an independent medical board. And if the medical board says it is not a genuine reason then sanctions will be taken. That is quite clear.”

‘Zionist logo’

Last month, Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Sports Minister Mohammad Abbasi as saying Iranian athletes would definitely refuse to compete against Israelis if they were drawn to do so.

“Not competing with the Zionist athletes is one of the values and prides of the Iranian athletes and nation,” he said.

IRNA commented, “Iranian athletes have ever since the glorious victory of the Islamic Revolution been boycotting entire competitions against the Zionist regime athletes and athletic teams, even at cost of losing valuable medals, to protest to the illegitimate occupation of Palestine by that usurper regime and the sixty year massacre, deportation, and siege of its real owners, the Palestinians.”

On Monday, wire service reports suggested that Iran may be reconsidering, quoting Iranian NOC chief Bahram Afsharzadeh as saying in London that Iran will “just follow the sportsmanship and play every country.”

But Iran’s Fars news agency on Tuesday said his words had been misrepresented, and that he had not referred to Israel.

Iran complained last year that the London 2012 logo resembled the word “Zion.” (Image: London 2012)

Last year, Iran threatened to boycott the London Olympic altogether, claiming that the event logo – jagged figures meant to represent 2012 – resembled the word “Zion.”

“Certainly other countries, including Islamic nations, will react to this racist logo and this would jeopardize the goals of the Olympic Games in the world,” Afsharzadeh said at the time.

Nonetheless, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now plans to be in London later this week for the games opening.

Meanwhile, the Iranian camp could have one more Israel-related headache to deal with in London. A review of the calendar shows that Iran’s Sajjad Hashemiahangari and Israel’s Los Angeles-born Donald Sanford are both competing in the 400m men’s sprint.

They could conceivably end up in the same heat on August 4, or both progress to the semi-finals or finals over the following two days. Sanford’s personal best time is 45.21 seconds while Hashemiahangari’s is 45.81, according to IAAF data. The Olympic record for the event is 43.49.

The Times of Israel quoted Israeli NOC head Zvi Warshaviak as telling reporters before leaving for London Tuesday that that he expected athletes from some countries to feign illness rather than compete against Israelis.

When the times comes, he predicted, “someone will have an upset stomach.”

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