(JTA) — Despite a statement from the head of the Iranian Olympic committee asserting that Iranian athletes can compete against Israelis in the London Olympic Games, it is unlikely to occur.
Bahram Afsharzadeh, the head of the Iranian Olympic Mission, said Monday that his athletes will compete against Israeli athletes in the Games that start this week. But the Iranian team left for London on Sunday without judo champion Javad Mahjoob, the only Iranian athlete who had a possibility to compete against an Israeli, the Washington Post reported.
Iranian officials are quoted as saying that Mahjoob is suffering from a “critical digestive system infection” and will not be able to travel to the Games. Others are skeptical that Mahjoob is ailing and believe it is more likely that it is an excuse to keep him from facing off against Ariel “Arik” Ze’evi in the 100-kilogram weight class.
Iranian athletes withdrew from events against Israelis at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.
The official Iranian government Fars news agency said that the Olympic chairman’s words were taken out of context, as he said that Iranian athletes would compete against all athletes and did not name Israel specifically.