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Fourth-Place Medal

Iran’s only athlete who could have faced an Israeli pulls out of Olympics

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

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Iran said on Monday that its athletes would compete against Israelis in the Olympics, a historic reversal from its current policy prohibiting its Olympians from such competitions.

But, oops, the only Iranian athlete who could have possibly faced an Israeli opponent at the Olympics withdrew from the Games one day earlier. What strange and unfortunate timing!

Javad Mahjoob, a judo champion competing in the 100-kg weight class, pulled out of the Olympics due to a "critical digestive system infection." Had Mahjoob remained in the competition, he could have faced Israel's Ariel "Arik" Ze'evi, a 2004 bronze medalist.

Mahjoob has said he's thrown matches in the past to avoid fighting an Israeli. 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.

He was the only Iranian who could have faced off against an Israeli in London.

One day after Mahjoob's withdrawal, Iran's Olympic chief said the nation's athletes would comply with IOC rules and compete against any competitors from any country. That was a change from 2004 and 2008 when athletes from Iran withdrew instead of facing Israelis. Knowing that Mahjoob wouldn't be competing, these comments were akin to a tennis player guaranteeing that he won't lose to Rafael Nadal in the Olympic tennis competition.

"We will be truthful to sport," said Bahram Afsharzadeh, presumably while crossing his fingers and toes. "We just follow the sportsmanship and play every country."

Afsharzadeh's comments were in response to a toothless claim by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge that countries and athletes would be punished for avoiding competition based on nationality, race or religion.

"If nation A does not appear at the competition against nation B, we will ask for explanations," Rogge said. "If the explanation is not satisfactory and valid at the end of it and is not credible, then we will go into cross-examination by an independent medical board. And if the medical board says it is not a genuine reason, then sanctions will be taken. That is quite clear."

Yeah, you hear that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?! If you don't provide an explanation deemed credible, then the independent medical board will cross-examine you and then if it finds no good reason for your withdrawal -- BOOM! -- you may get a slap on the wrist. With steep consequences like that, the only reasonable thing is to assume that Mahjoob's ailment is real and that there's absolutely no way he could have been ready by the start of his judo competition in nine days.

Some anti-Zionists just have no luck.

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