TOKYO – The International Judo Federation suspended an Algerian judoka and his coach on Saturday for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics before their event began, after the draw put him on track for a match against an Israeli.
Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef gave individual statements to the media announcing their withdrawal from the competition to avoid meeting an Israeli athlete during the event, the IJF said in a statement.
Nourine’s withdrawal was “in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation,” he said.
“The IJF has a strict policy of non-discrimination, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo,” he said.
The IJF launched an investigation into the case, which led to a temporary suspension of Nourine and Benikhlef.
The Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the accreditation for both the athlete and the coach and would send them home, applying the corresponding sanctions, the IJF said, without further details on the type of sanctions.
Attempts to contact Nourine for comment were unsuccessful.
On Friday, Nourine told the Algerian media that his political support for the Palestinian cause prevented him from competing against the Israeli Tohar Butbul.
The 30-year-old was due to meet Sudanese Mohamed Abdalrasool on Monday in his first match in the men’s 73kg category. A win would have paired him with Butbul, who has a first round break, in the next round.
It is not the first time that Nourine has withdrawn from the competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent. He withdrew from the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.
Tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flared again this year when clashes in disputed Jerusalem sparked cross-border clashes.
Athletes from other countries, including Iran and Egypt, have also refused in the past to compete against Israelis.
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