Algerian Olympian suspended for refusing to face Israeli

Algerian judoka sent home from Olympics after refusing to compete against Israeli
2 min read
24 July, 2021
Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef on Saturday had their Olympic accreditation withdrawn and will be sent home after refusing to fight an Israeli athlete.
Israel's Tohar Butbul [White] was set for a potential matchup the Algerian judoka in the second round [Getty]

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef on Saturday had their Olympic accreditation withdrawn and will be sent home after refusing to fight an Israeli athlete.

Nourine was set to face Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool on Monday in his first bout, with a possible second round showdown against Israeli Tohar Butbul in the men's 73kg division.

But speaking to an Algerian television station late Thursday, he said his  support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against an Israeli.

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"We worked a lot to reach the Olympics... but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this," he said, adding that his decision was "final".

On Saturday, the International Judo Federation's (IJF) executive committee announced they had temporarily suspended Nourine and Benikhlef.

In response, the Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew their accreditation said they would be put on a plane home, with further sanctions expected.

The IJF said Nourine's stance was "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," ir added.

"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."

It is not the first time Nourine has pulled out to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, after a similar move at the 2019 world championships, also in Tokyo.

Iranian judokas have also come under fire for refusing to compete against their Israeli counterparts.

This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.