Iran judo athlete skips Olympics, avoiding possible competition with Israeli

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Contrary to comments from Iran’s top Olympics official earlier this week, it looks like no Iranian and Israeli Olympians will be competing against each other in London after all.

Iranian judo champion Javad Mahjoub has cancelled his London trip, Iranian media reported July 22, citing treatment for a “critical digestive infection.”

“Mahjoub must use antibiotics during 10 days and he cannot compete in the Olympics,” Lotfali Pour-Kazemi, the head of Iran’s Sports Medicine Federation, said Sunday, according to Tehran Times.

If he’d gone to London, Mahjoub faced the prospect of competing against Israeli judo champ Ariel Ze’evi, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.

“Mahjoob has said he’s thrown matches in the past to avoid fighting an Israeli,” Yahoo’s Eurosport/London Spy reports.  “His theory: It’s better to lose on purpose rather than withdraw from a fight against an Israeli, an act which could bring a four-year suspension.”

“In sport and in Olympics, all the countries must (be) together with the teams in friendship,” Iran’s top Olympics official Bahram Afsharzadeh said in London Monday (July 23), the Associated Press reported. “We just follow the sportsmanship and play every country.”

The Iran Olympics official made the comments in the athletes’ village “after signing the ‘truce wall,’ a U.N.-backed initiative calling on warring parties around the world to end hostilities during the period of the games,” the AP report said.

But even as he made the comments, the issue was already apparently moot, NPR’s Tom Goldman reported. With Mahjoub having dropped out Sunday, none of the other 50 Iranian athletes in London is expected to compete with Israeli athletes.

Iran “has sought to snub Israel at the games before, including in 2004, when the country’s gold-medal favorite in judo, Arash Miresmaeili, withdrew from a match against an Israeli,” NPR’s Bill Chappell wrote.

(Photo: Iranian judo athlete Javad Mahjoub is skipping the 2012 Olympics. Tehran Times.)