Monday. 04.03.2024

Algerian athlete Fethi Nourine was to be sent home after he withdrew from the judo competition at the Tokyo Olympics to avoid facing an Israeli athlete, the International Judo Federation said on Saturday.

In a statement, the IJF said Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, "gave individual statements to media announcing their withdrawal from the competition to avoid meeting an Israeli athlete during the event."

Britain's PA agency quoted the 30-year-old Nourine telling Algerian television: “We worked a lot to reach the Olympics. But the Palestinian cause is bigger than all this.”

Nourine’s coach Amar Benikhlef said: “We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

The federation said Nourine, who was due to take part in the -73kg event, and his coach were temporarily suspended after an investigative commission "confirmed all the facts."

It added that the case was assigned to its disciplinary commission for "further investigation, judgement and final sanctioning beyond the Olympic Games."

The Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew accreditation for both Nourine and Benikhlef and "plans to send them home, applying sanctions accordingly," the IJF statement said.

The comments by the two Algerians "are 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," the federation said.

Olympic neutrality

The Olympic Charter provides for the protection of the neutrality of sport at the Olympic Games and the neutrality of the Games themselves, stating that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee said athletes would be allowed to express themselves at Games venues before the start of their competitions, but also added: "When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes."

Algeria does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and Nourine previously withdrew from the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.

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

Algeria judoka Nourine withdraws from Games to avoid facing Israeli