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Iranian swimmer quits Olympic race against Israeli

  • Story Highlights
  • Iranian Olympic swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei withdraws from swimming heat
  • Israel's Tom Beeri due to take part in the same heat; Iran, Israel relations tense
  • Iranian embassy: Alirezaei suffered stomach pains shortly before heat
  • In 2004 Iranian competitor refused to compete against Israeli, hailed by president
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- An Iranian swimmer at the Beijing Olympics who withdrew from a race that included an Israeli did so because he was ill, authorities said Monday.

The swimmer, Mohammad Alirezaei, did not compete in the men's 100-meter breaststroke heat Saturday because of illness and not for any other reason, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Beijing told CNN.

Iran could have faced sanctions from the International Olympic Committee if Alirezaei deliberately pulled out so he did not have to compete against Israel's Tom Beeri.

Relations between the two countries are non-existent.

Iran does not recognize Israel and accuses the Jewish state of trying to destabilize the republic. Israel has not ruled out military action to halt Iran's nuclear aspirations.

Four years ago, at the Olympic Games in Athens, an Iranian athlete pulled out of the opening round of a judo competition that included an Israeli.

According to press reports at the time, the Iranian president was quoted by the state news agency as saying the athlete's actions would be "recorded in the history of Iranian glories" and declared that the nation consider him to be "the champion of the 2004 Olympic Games."

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Iran's Swimming Federation told the country's Islamic Republic News Agency that Alirezaei complained of stomach pains 30 minutes before the meet.

Doctors, suspecting appendicitis or a ruptured hernia, determined that the swimmer be hospitalized, the federation said.

The Iranian National Olympic Committee (INOC) had said earlier that it did not foresee a problem with Alirezaei competing in the heat because there would be "no face-to-face situation" between the two men.

"Alirezaei swims in lane one and the representative of Israel in lane seven, so they will not face each other," INOC secretary Ali Kafashian said, according to the news agency.

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