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24.07.2021 Athletics

Tokyo Olympics: Algerian judoka suspended and sent home after withdrawing to avoid Israeli opponent

By BBC Africa
Tokyo Olympics: Algerian judoka suspended and sent home after withdrawing to avoid Israeli opponent
LISTEN JUL 24, 2021

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has been suspended and will be sent home from Tokyo 2020 after he withdrew from the competition to avoid a potential meeting with an Israeli opponent.

Nourine, 30, was due to face Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool in Monday's first round of the men's -73kg class.

Victory would have meant he would take on Israel's Tohar Butbul next.

Speaking to Algerian TV, he said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete.

Nourine pulled out of the 2019 world championships, also in Tokyo, after being paired with Butbul - who has a first-round bye.

"We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that's why we had to retire. We made the right decision," Nourine's coach Amar Ben Yaklif told Algerian media.

On Saturday, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said the pair's statements were in "total opposition" to the governing body's "philosophy".

Nourine and his coach were suspended pending an IJF investigation, while the Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the pair's accreditation and "plans to send them home".

The IJF Disciplinary Commission will decide their final punishment, while they also face sanctions from the Algerian Olympic Committee.

The IJF made their decision in line with the protest rules at the Olympics, which states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken place over decades, with tensions flaring again in 2021 as confrontations in contested Jerusalem triggered cross-border clashes.

Athletes from other countries, including Iran and Egypt, have also previously refused to compete against Israelis.

Iran was banned by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for four years after it ordered Saeid Mollaei to pull out of the world championships in Japan in 2019.

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