Algerian Judoka Suspended from Tokyo Olympics After Refusing to Face Israeli Opponent

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An Algerian judo athlete, Fethi Nourine, along with his coach, have been suspended after they withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic games because they refused to face off against an Israeli opponent.

On Friday, Nourine’s coach, Amar Benikhlef, said he made the withdrawal to avoid a potential second-round matchup with Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the men’s 73 kg division on Monday.

 

Tohar Butbul, the Israeli Judoka Nourine, would have faced. Getty Images

“‘We were not lucky with the draw,” Benikhlef said. “We got an Israeli opponent, and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

The International Judo Federation (IJF) announced later that Nourine and his coach were suspended in a statement, saying, “The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.” According to the IJF, Nourine’s withdrawal from the competition was “in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation.”

Following the suspension, the Algerian Olympic committee withdrew both men’s accreditation and arranged to send them home.

 

Nourine also made clear on Friday that his support for Palestinians would not allow him to compete against Butbul. As reported by the Associated Press, Nourine “also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul, who is a much more accomplished judo athlete than Nourine.”