- Algerian athlete Fethi Nourine has been sent home from the Olympics.
- Nourine withdrew from the judo tournament when he was scheduled to fight an Israeli competitor.
- The judoka, who is pro-Palestine, said he would “not get his hands dirty.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The International Judo Federation has suspended a judoka who refused to compete against an Israeli athlete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Fethi Nourine flew to Japan with the Algerian team but withdrew from the Games when he saw he’d been scheduled to fight Tohar Butbul, of Israel, in the second round.
Nourine’ also withdrew from the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid facing an Israeli competitor.
“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics,” Nourine said, according to Sky News. “But the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this.”
Citing Algerian TV, Sky News added that Nourine said he would not “get his hands dirty.”
Nourine’s judo coach Amar Benikhlef supported his athlete’s withdrawal. “We were not lucky with the draw,” Benikhlef said. “We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”
The International Judo Federation [IJF] said it suspended Nourine because the stance opposed its philosophy.
“The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo,” read a statement on its website.
The IJF added that both Nourine and Benikhlef will now face “disciplinary sanctions.”
Nourine was due to compete in the opening round of the 73kg judo tournament Monday.
Sportspeople from the Muslim world, including Iran and Egypt, have frequently boycotted athletes from Israel to protest the decades-old conflict between the Jewish state, the Palestinians, and their supporters around the Middle East.
In May, tensions flared again, following clashes in Jerusalem, with cross-border rocket attacks launched on Israel by Hamas in the Gaza enclave and heavy retaliation from the Israeli airforce.