The Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine and his coach have been suspended for 10 years by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics after the draw set him on course for a bout against an Israeli opponent.
The 30-year-old was due to face Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool for his first bout in the men’s 73kg class and a victory would have paired him with Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the next round.
Fethi Nourine. Photograph: Reuters
Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Butbul. The Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the accreditation for both Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef and sent them home from the Games.
The IJF, which had temporarily suspended Nourine and Benikhlef, said the pair used the Games “as a platform for protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda”, which breached its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter. They are banned from all IJF events and activities through to 23 July 2031, though they can appeal against their bans to the court of arbitration for sport.
The incident was not the first time Nourine had withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent. He pulled out of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.
And it was 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.