The World Jewish Congress has called for a universal ban on Iranian athletes at sport events until the Islamic Republic allows competition against Israel.
After several Iranian boycotts of Israeli athletes, a Jewish group has decided to turn the tables. Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, said Iran should be prohibited from competing in the 2012 Olympics in London.
"It is high time that a strong signal is sent to Iran," he said. "This kind of bigotry can and must be overcome, and Tehran must give clear undertakings that Iranian athletes do not shun their Israeli counterparts at sporting events. Iran's behavior is unsportsmanlike and smacks of anti-Semitism," he added. "It must be stopped."
Iran this week once again pulled out of a championship swimming race in Shanghai because Israeli swimmer Gal Nevo also swam in the event. The Iranian, Mohammed Aliezaei, later said he could not swim because he suddenly felt tired. In 2008, he pulled out of the race because he suddenly fell sick.
Other athletes from Iran also have forfeited rather than vying against “Zionists, “a move that has been lauded by Iranian officials, The chairman of the National Olympic Committee in Iran has said that athletes should follow the government policy against the “Zionist regime'” and should “boycott all competitions in which Israeli athletes take part.”
An Iranian athlete last was banned from his team last year for competing against an Israeli in the World Masters Weightlifting Championship. After Israel won the contest, his Iranian opponent refused to shake his hand, but the snub was not enough to prevent his being punished by Iranian authorities.
FINA, the world swimming organization, said it is studying the latest Iranian boycott. FINA’s executive director Cornel Marculescu said, "If this is the case there's no point in [Iran] coming to the world championships. We don't need these politics in our sport."
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported, “Iranian athletes have on various occasions shown strong support for the oppressed Palestinians nation by withdrawing from matches and games where Israeli sportspeople are present as well.”