Iran Basketball Team Withdraws From Paralympics Amid Suspicion
Iran's Paralympic wheelchair basketball team forfeited their quarter-final match versus the United States, avoiding a possible match-up against Israel.
Officials for Iran's Paralympic team deny that they withdrew from the competition because of Iran's strained relations with the U.S. and Israel.
Iranian officials said the forfeit was prompted by a change in scheduling and denied the move was politically motivated. Iran and the United States have no diplomatic relations and the U.S. government has led efforts to persuade Iran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment program.
The International Paralympic Committee said Iran withdrew because the team was unhappy about "the draw proposed for the crossover round and subsequent schedule."
The winner of the U.S.-Iran match would have gone on to meet the winner of Israel-Canada. Iran does not recognize Israel and bans any official contact with the Jewish state. Canada eventually beat Israel.
Suspicions were raised, in part, because of Iran's history of withdrawing from sporting events with Israeli participants.
At the Beijing Olympics last month, Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei withdrew from a 100-meter breaststroke heat that included an Israeli competitor, citing illness. The International Olympic Committee said no violation had been found.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran's judo world champion and gold-medal favorite Arash Miresmaeili did not compete against an Israeli opponent, publicly stating it was for political reasons. Iranian government officials were quoted in state media congratulating him for doing so.