"My flight was exactly the day before my race, so I was so tired and drowsy. Because I had to wait for my visa," Mohammed Alirezaei told The Associated Press two days after not starting a 100-meter breaststroke heat including Gal Nevo of Israel.
Speaking after completing his 50 breaststroke heat Tuesday, Alirezaei added that he had "no problem" competing against Israeli athletes, saying he did so at junior worlds.
However, Alirezaei also pulled out of an event against another Israeli, Tom Beeri, in the 100 breaststroke at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee accepted the explanation then that he was ill.
Alirezaei said the fact that both withdrawals came against Israelis was merely a coincidence.
Asked about the latest withdrawal, IOC president Jacques Rogge told the AP on Monday: "I'm sure knowing the rules of FINA, the athletes will have to explain why and that most likely the athletes will have to come up with very good reasons."
FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said he would ask the Iranian team for an explanation, while Nevo called for action.
"FINA should do something about it, because it doesn't look good. It embarrasses the whole competition," Nevo said after his 200 butterfly heat Tuesday. "Me personally, I don't mind."
A similar case occurred at the 2004 Athens Olympics when an Iranian judo athlete did not compete against an Israeli opponent, and Iranian government officials were quoted in state media as congratulating him for doing so.
Iran does not recognize Israel and bans any contact with the Jewish state.
Alirezaei is one of three Iranians competing in the pool competition, while Israel has a team of seven swimmers.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook