September 18, 2021

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Decade-long ban for Algerian judoka’s Olympic withdrawal

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has been banned from competition for 10 years by the International Judo Federation (IJF) after his withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics to avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.

Nourine’s coach, Amar Benikhlef — who is in the IJF Hall of Fame — also received a 10-year ban on Monday.

The Algerian withdrew from the Tokyo Games on the opening day after learning he could potentially face Tohar Butbul in the second round of the men’s lightweight competition at the Budokan.

Nourine and Benikhlef told Algerian media they had quit to express support for Palestinians.

The Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew both men’s accreditations and sent them home.

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.

“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.

An Israeli judoka in blue grapples with a Canadian competitor in white at the Tokyo Olympics. An Israeli judoka in blue grapples with a Canadian competitor in white at the Tokyo Olympics.
Israel’s Tohar Butbul (in blue) made it to the round of 16 in Tokyo without a fight after two judo opponents withdrew.(

Getty Images: Harry How


Abdalrasool claimed he had an injury, but Butbul and the Israeli team did not believe it, citing the fact Abdalrasool had 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 a bronze medal in the first-ever mixed team competition.

The governing body of judo has been firm in its anti-discrimination policies and had demonstrated 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 has since 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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