Olympian Refuses to Face Israeli Opponent

Fethi Nourine bowed out rather than face Tohar Butbu
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2021 6:30 AM CDT
Algerian Olympian Withdraws Rather Than Face Israeli
A worker walks under the Tokyo 2020 logo on the field of play for judo at the Nippon Budokan   (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

An Algerian athlete is being sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after refusing to face an Israeli opponent. Fethi Nourine bowed out of men's judo 73K division late Thursday and told Algerian television that his support for the Palestinian people precludes him from facing Tohar Butbul. Per Reuters, Nourine said he made the final decision, which is likely to get him and coach Amar Benikhlef sanctioned beyond the Olympics, in order not to "get his hands dirty." Per the AP, the International Judo Federation's executive committee has temporarily suspended both Nourine and Benikhlef. The Algerian Olympic committee then withdrew both men's accreditation and made plans to send them home.

Nourine, 30, was due to face Mohamed Abdalrasool of Sudan on Monday. Had he won, he would have then faced Butbol. Nourine also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul. Those world championships were held in Tokyo at the Budokan, the site of the Olympic judo tournament. Judo's world governing body has been firm in its strong support of Israel's right to compete in recent years. In April, the IJF suspended Iran for four years because the nation refused to allow its fighters to face Israelis. The IJF said Iran's policies were revealed when former Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid potentially facing Israeli world champion Sagi Muki in the finals.
(More Tokyo stories.)

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