Tokyo Olympics: Algerian judoka suspended and sent home after refusing to face Israeli rival

Israel's Tohar Butbul was awaiting Fethi Nourine at Tokyo 2020, but the Algerian refused to consider taking on that clash and withdrew.

Agency News Contributor

Updated - 24 July 2021 3:57 pm

Algerian Fethi Nourine has been suspended by the International Judo Federation and will be ordered to leave Tokyo after withdrawing from the Olympics to avoid a potential meeting with an Israeli competitor. Nourine, 30, was scheduled to take on Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool in the 73kg division on Monday, ahead of a possible clash with Israel's Tohar Butbul.

Speaking to Algerian media before his suspension was announced, Nourine said he refused to "get his hands dirty", with his political support for the Palestinian cause triggering the decision to pull out of Tokyo 2020.

Nourine also withdrew from the 2019 world championships after being paired with Butbul, and he will be sent home from the Olympics after refusing to compete.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) said Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef had both received a temporary suspension, with a disciplinary commission to further examine the case and consider possible further punishments.

"The IJF launched the investigation and notified the Algerian Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee," the IJF said in a statement.

"Responding to the information, the Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew both the athlete and coach accreditation and plans to send them home, applying sanctions accordingly.

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

"According to the IJF rules, in line with the Olympic charter and especially with rule 50.2 that provides for the protection of the neutrality of sport at the Olympic Games and the neutrality of the Games themselves, which states that 'no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas', Fethi Nourine and Amar Benikhlef are now suspended and will face a decision by the IJF disciplinary commission, as well as disciplinary sanctions by the national Olympic committee of Algeria back in their country.

"Judo sport is based on a strong moral code, including respect and friendship, to foster solidarity and we will not tolerate any discrimination, as it goes against the core values and principles of our sport."

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