An Algerian judo star who refused to compete against an Israeli athlete at the Olympic Games has been whacked with a massive ban from the sport's governing body.
Algeria's Fethi Nourine sparked uproar in Tokyo after withdrawing from the judo event in Tokyo to avoid a possible second-round match-up with Israel's Tohar Butbul in the men's 73 kg division.
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Nourine was drawn to face Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool in the opening round, with the winner set to face fifth seed Butbul.
Upon learning who his potential second round opponent was, the Algerian judoka decided to pull out of Olympic competition, citing support for Palestinians as the reason behind his decision.
At the time, the International Judo Federation's executive committee temporarily suspended Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef.
The Algerian Olympic committee also withdrew the accreditation of both men, before sending them home from Tokyo.
"My position is consistent on the Palestinian issue, and I reject normalisation, and if it cost me that absence from the Olympic Games, God will compensate"
- Fethi Nourine, Algerian judo athlete https://t.co/otPX9zh2TO
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) July 23, 2021
Following the scandal, both Nourine and Benikhlef - who is in the IJF Hall of Fame - were hit with 10-year bans from the sport.
After an investigation, the IJF issued a ban that effectively ends the competitive career of the 30-year-old Nourine, a three-time gold medallist in the African Judo Championships.
"It is evident that the two Algerian judoka, with malicious intent, have used the Olympic Games as a platform for protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda, which is a clear and serious breach of the IJF Statutes, the IJF Code of Ethics and the Olympic Charter," the IJF said.
"Therefore, no other penalty than a severe suspension can be imposed in this case."
The 39-year-old Benikhlef won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Butbul advanced to the round of 16 without a bout in the 73-kilogram division in Tokyo because of the withdrawals of Nourine and Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool, who also quit the tournament before fighting Butbul.
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Abdalrasool claimed he had an injury, but Butbul and the Israeli team didn't believe it, citing the fact the Sudanese weighed in for the bout one day earlier.
Butbul was eliminated in the quarter-finals of his weight class, but he was a member of the Israeli team that won bronze in the first-ever mixed team competition.
The governing body of judo has been firm in its antidiscrimination policies and strong support of Israel's right to compete in recent years.
In April, the IJF suspended Iran for four years because the nation refused to allow its fighters to face Israelis.
The IJF said Iran's policies were revealed when former Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose in the semi-finals of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid potentially facing Israeli world champion Sagi Muki in the finals.
Mollaei received asylum in Germany and citizenship in Mongolia.
He won a silver medal representing Mongolia at the Tokyo Olympics.
Nourine and Benikhlef could appeal their bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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