Jewish group urges Iran be barred from Olympics

The World Jewish Congress says Iran should be barred from taking part in the Olympics and other international sporting events until its athletes stop boycotting their Israeli counterparts.

A WJC press release says the Iranian behavior is “unsportsmanlike and smacks of anti-Semitism.”

The release was issued this week after an Iranian swimmer, claiming he was “tired and drowsy,” pulled out of a July 24 race that included an Israeli at the world swimming championships in Shanghai, China.

The same swimmer, Mohammed Alirezaei, pulled out of a race against an Israeli at the 2008 Olympics, claiming he was ill. This time, Alirezaei did not start a heat in the 100-meter breaststroke that included Gal Nevo of Israel.

In a press release, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the WJC, called Iran’s repeated attempts to politicize sporting events “disgraceful” and the regime’s obligation on Iranian athletes not to compete against sportsmen from Israel “a clear breach of the spirit and the letter of the statutes of international sporting bodies.”

“Unfortunately, this is what usually happens — it’s crazy,” said Yitzhak Kramer, the head of the Israeli delegation. “This competition is about sport, not politics, and you need to separate the two. That’s what is supposed to be nice about sport.”

The Iranian team was unavailable for immediate comment, and swimming governing body FINA was reportedly investigating the situation.

A similar case occurred at the 2004 Athens Olympics when an Iranian judo athlete did not compete against an Israeli opponent, and Iranian government officials were quoted in state media as congratulating him for doing so. — ap