Algerian judo athlete Fethi Nourine says he has chosen to withdraw from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics rather than face an Israeli competitor.
Nourine told Algeria’s Echorouk TV that he “decided to withdraw out of conviction, because this is the very least we can offer the Palestinian cause.” “This is my duty,” he said, adding that he wanted to “send a message to the whole world that Israel is an occupation, a lawless country, a country without a flag.”
The Algerian athlete was scheduled to face Mohamed Abdalrasool from Sudan of the men’s 73 kilo (approximately 160 pounds) class, while Israel’s Tohar Butbul had a bye as he automatically advanced to the competition’s next stage.
After announcing his withdrawal, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said on Saturday it was temporarily suspending Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef.
According to Reuters, if Nourine had defeated Abdalrasool, the Algerian would have met Israel’s Butbul in the following round.It is not the first time Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, having also pulled out of the 2019 world championships here.
It is 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.