Algerian judoka sent home after refusing to face Israeli opponent

Fethi Nourine said that his support for Palestine force him to withdraw

A general view of the opening ceremony on Friday. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

A general view of the opening ceremony on Friday. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

 

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has been suspended and sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after withdrawing from the competition to avoid a potential match-up with an Israeli.

Nourine, who competes in the men’s under-73kg, had been drawn to face Tohar Butbul if he got beyond Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool in the opening round.

The 30-year-old told Algerian TV that his support for the Palestinian cause led him to withdraw rather than potentially face Butbul.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics,” said Nourine, who was due to begin competition on Monday. “But the Palestinian cause is bigger than all this.”

Nourine’s coach Amar Benikhlef told Algerian media: “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.”

The International Judo Federation subsequently announced that both Nourine and his coach have now been suspended pending an investigation.

“These actions were taken based on the official recorded declarations of both Fethi Nourine and Amar Benikhlef, that were published in the media and that are in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation,” a statement said.

“The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.”

Nourine previously withdrew from the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.

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