AFP: Iran could face action from the IOC if it deliberately pulled out of the Olympic men's 100m breaststroke heats because an Israeli was also racing, Olympic officials said Sunday.
BEIJING (AFP) — Iran could face action from the IOC if it deliberately pulled out of the Olympic men's 100m breaststroke heats because an Israeli was also racing, Olympic officials said Sunday.
Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei's lane one was empty when the field left the starting blocks on Saturday as Israel's Tom Beeri, starting in lane seven, finished fourth.
International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies said she was unaware of the facts, but reiterated IOC policy.
"I wouldn't specifically comment on this incident," she said.
"Under the spirit of respect and fairplay, if it is confirmed that he deliberately pulled out then the IOC would take it seriously."
Israel, the Middle East region's sole if undeclared nuclear power, considers Iran its main strategic threat because of its nuclear programme and repeated predictions of the Jewish state's demise by senior Iranian leaders.
During the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran's judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili, a prominent gold medal hope, refused to compete against Ehud Vaks of Israel in the first round out of solidarity for the Palestinian cause.
Miresmaeili, twice a winner of the flyweight world title, still received a 5,000-dollar award the Iranian National Olympic Committee had promised to medal winners and he was hailed by former President Mohammad Khatami for his stance.
Beeri made no mention of Alirezaei's non-appearance after the race.
There had been reports that Iran would compete against Israel at these Olympic Games for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Iranian National Olympic Committee (INOC) had said that as there was "no face-to-face situation" in swimming there would be no problem in attending the competition.
"Alirezaei swims in lane one and the representative of the Zionist regime (Israel) in lane seven, so they will not face each other," INOC secretary Ali Kafashian told ISNA news agency prior to the race.
According to ISNA, also the country's sports organisation, which is part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, had confirmed that there would no be boycott in the race.