IJF bans Algeria's Nourine, coach for refusing to fight an Israeli at Olympics

Algeria's Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Tohar Butbul.

FILE: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine receives a 10-year ban for withdrawing from the Olympics to avoid Israel. Picture: : www.sxc.hu.

JOHANNESBURG - Algeria's Fethi Nourine and his coach IJF Hall of Famer Amar Benikhlef were suspended for 10 years by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics after the draw set him on course for a bout against an Israeli.

Nourine was due to face Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool for his first bout in the men's 73kg class and a victory would have paired him with Israel's Tohar Butbul in the next round.

The 30-year-old said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Butbul.

The Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the accreditation for both Nourine and his coach Benikhlef and sent them home from the Tokyo Games.

The International Judo Federation said Nourine and Benikhlef used the Games "as a platform for protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda", which breached its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

The statement said they were banned from all IJF events and activities through to 23 July 2031, though they can appeal their bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This was not the first time that Nourine had withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent. He pulled out of the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo for the same reason.

Israeli's Butbul advanced to the round of 16 without a bout in the 73-kilogram division at the Tokyo Olympics because of the withdrawals of Nourine and Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool, who also quit the tournament before fighting Butbul.

Butbul was eliminated in the quarter-finals of his weight class, but he was a member of the Israeli team that won a bronze medal in the first-ever mixed team competition.

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