Algerian judoka sent home from Olympics after refusing to face Israeli
- Fethi Nourine says: ‘Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this’
- Athlete and coach suspended by International Judo Federation
An Algerian judoka has been suspended and sent home after withdrawing from the Olympics when his draw set him on course to compete against an Israeli competitor.
Before his suspension, Fethi Nourine, who was due to take part in the men’s under-73kg division, said his support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Tohar Butbul, who he was due to meet in the second round.
“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics,” said Nourine, who was due to compete in the opening round on Monday. “But the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this.”
It is not the first time Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, having also pulled out of the 2019 world championships here.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) responded by suspending Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, who on Friday said: “We were not lucky with the draw.
“We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”
In a statement the IJF said the behaviour of both Algerians was “in total opposition to our philosophy”.
“The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.”
It added that a disciplinary commission would decide on further sanctions “beyond the Olympic Games”.
The statement came after the Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the accreditation for both men and confirmed it would send them home.
It is not the first time Israeli judokas have had their opponents withdraw or refuse to acknowledge them.
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby quit the sport, hours after refusing to shake the hand of his victorious Israeli opponent Or Sasson in the first round of the men’s over-100kg competition.
In April, Iran was given a four‑year ban by the IJF for “repeated and very severe breaches” of the organisation’s statutes after it put pressure on one of its fighters to not face an Israeli athlete.