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Iranian judo champion disqualified

• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- A two-time world judo champion from Iran who reportedly said he would not compete against an Israeli athlete was disqualified from the Olympics on Sunday because he was too heavy.

Arash Miresmaeili was overweight for the under-66kg class, the International Judo Federation said, but it did not disclose by how much.

Miresmaeili, who carried the Iranian flag at Friday's opening ceremony, was considered a favorite to win Iran's first gold medal in judo.

Miresmaeili was scheduled to meet Ehud Vaks in the first round, but Iranian athletes have refused to compete against Israelis in previous competitions.

At the 2001 world championships, Mahed Malekmohammadi of Iran did not compete again Yoel Razvozov of Israel.

Iran does not recognize Israel and bans any contact with the Jewish state.

After Thursday's draw, the Iranian press agency IRNA quoted Miresmaeili as saying: "I refused to play against an Israeli rival to sympathize with the oppressed Palestinian people."

At Sunday's briefing following the weigh-in, however, international federation spokesman Michel Brousse disclosed it had received a statement from the president of the Iranian judo federation saying "that the rumors were not true" concerning Miresmaeili's refusal to compete.

Miresmaeili has not participated in any major international tournaments this season, although he did train for a tournament in Paris in April.

The last time he competed internationally was at the world championships in September 2003 in Osaka, where he beat France's Larbi Benboudaoud, who was the runner-up in the Sydney Olympics in the 66kg class.

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