IOC Warns Athletes Not to Boycott Israeli Opponents

Citizens of Arab countries called upon their country's athletes to refuse to compete against Israelis at the Games.

Any Olympic athlete who deliberately boycotts a competition in which he or she would have faced an Israeli opponent will be punished, said International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on Monday.

The 70-year-old Belgian athlete-cum-official was reacting after some Egyptians called upon their country's athletes to refuse to compete against Israelis at the Games. Citizens of other Arab countries have made similar appeals to their Olympic representatives.

Rogge said the IOC would review the situation if it seems that an athlete is avoiding a competition with an Israeli.

"If an athlete is genuinely injured or ill, then of course it is understandable. But we will examine every case thoroughly with an independent medical team, and if the medical team does not ratify the decision of the first doctor, then the athlete will be punished. We have clearly told the [National Olympic Committees] that refusal to compete against another athlete is totally forbidden."

At the 2004 Games in Athens, Iranian world judo champion Arash Miresmaeil pulled out of a bout against Israeli Ehud Vaks; he was ultimately cleared of deliberately having boycotted the contest.