An Algerian judo athlete will be sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after he withdrew from the competition to avoid potentially facing an Israeli opponent.
Fethi Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, told Algerian media they were withdrawing to avoid a possible second-round matchup with Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the men’s 73 kg division on Monday.
Nourine was drawn to face Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool in the opening round, with the winner facing Butbul, the fifth seed.
The International Judo Federation’s executive committee has temporarily suspended Nourine and Benikhlef, who are likely to face sanctions beyond the Olympics, which began Saturday. The Algerian Olympic committee then withdrew both men’s accreditation and made plans to send them home.
The IJF said Nourine’s position was “in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation. The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.”
Nourine and Benikhlef attribute their stance to their political support for Palestinians.
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. Those world championships were held in Tokyo at the Budokan, the site of the Olympic judo tournament.