Drama in the Aquatic Cube at Beijing
Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei withdrew from the 100-meter breaststroke prelims on Saturday, raising suspicion that he did so because an Israeli swimmer, Tom Beeri, was placed in the same heat. If Alrezaei did indeed pull out of the race for political reasons, Iran would face potential sanctions according to International Olympic Committee guidelines.
But the IOC has accepted Alirezaei’s explanation that he was experiencing stomach pains before his race and say that no violation has occurred.
An Iranian athlete withdrew from the judo tournament in Athens in 2004 to great praise because an Israeli athlete was competing. At that time, says CNN:
The Iranian president was quoted by the state news agency as saying the athlete’s actions would be “recorded in the history of Iranian glories” and declared that the nation considers him to be “the champion of the 2004 Olympic Games.”
Iran does not recognize Israel’s existence and prohibits contact with Israelis. Despite all that, Russia’s Israeli men’s basketball coach met and shook hands with the Iranian basketball team in Beijing on Sunday.