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'Iranian Hercules' not strong enough for Olympics

Two-time Olympic champion Hossein Rezazadeh won't participate in the Beijing Games after doctors advised the injured weightlifter to stay home and avoid "heavy and stressful activity," an Iranian news outlet reported Thursday.

Iran's greatest strongman isn't healthy enough to make the trip to Beijing.

Two-time Olympic champion weightlifter Hossein Rezazadeh, nicknamed "Iranian Hercules," won't participate in next month's Games after doctors advised him to stay home and avoid "heavy and stressful activity," an Iranian news outlet reported Thursday.

The super heavyweight, who won Olympic gold in Sydney and Athens, hasn't competed internationally since injuring a knee in a traffic accident last year.

"I am confident that my young friends will be well able to repeat the national honor in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Therefore, I accept the doctors' recommendation," Rezazadeh was quoted as saying in a statement by the ISNA news agency.

Fellow weightlifter Rashid Sharifi will take Rezazadeh's place on the 53-member Iranian team — the country's largest Olympic contingent of athletes since the 1976 Montreal Games.

The group also includes three women, who will compete in taekwondo, shooting and rowing. Iranian women are allowed to compete in sports that require taking off their Islamic headdress, but only in female-only arenas.

Najmeh Abtin will compete in shooting and Homa Hosseini in rowing. The only Olympic appearance of a woman from Iran in Athens was in shooting.

Rezazadeh won Olympic gold in the 105-kg-plus category at both the 2000 Sydney Games and 2004 Athens Games, breaking a decades-long Soviet and Russian stranglehold on the weight class and earning Rezazadeh celebrity status in Iran.

Rezazadeh was injured in an automobile crash in August 2007 when the vehicle taking him to a training camp in northern Iran swerved into a mountainside in heavy fog.

The four-time world champion was training for the Beijing Games, but hadn't competed since December 2006 at the Asian Games in Doha, where he won gold.

With files from the Associated Press