International Judo Federation bans Algerian athlete and coach for 10 years for refusing to fight an Israeli at Tokyo 2020

Judoka Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef admitted they were withdrawing from competition to avoid a potential match with Tohar Butbul of Israel.

Fethi Nourine (IJF)
Fethi Nourine (IJF)

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef have been banned for 10 years by the International Judo Federation after the athlete withdrew from Tokyo 2020 to avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent.

The ban retroactively takes effect from July 23, the day they made statements to the media announcing Nourine’s withdrawal from the competition following the draw for the tournament. Nourine would have had to face Tohar Butbul of Israel if he had beaten Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool in his opening match in the men’s 73-kilogram weight class.

The IJF Executive Committee on July 24 temporarily suspended both Nourine and Benikhlef and the Algerian Olympic Committee withdrew the Tokyo 2020 accreditations of both men.

A disciplinary procedure began on August 6.

The IJF statement said “For the IJF Disciplinary Commission, 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. Therefore, no other penalty than a severe suspension can be imposed in this case.”

The 10-year ban is effective immediately. Nourine and Benikhlef can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

After learning of his ban, Nourine told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency that he has no regrets and stands by his actions.

“It is a harsh punishment, but it was expected and this proves that they support the Zionist terrorism against our people in Gaza. They are complicit in the crimes of the occupation. I have not committed any violations; my withdrawal was simply an act of solidarity with the Palestinians,” Nourine said.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Men's 81kg - Medal Ceremony - Nippon Budokan - Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Silver medallist Saeid Mollaei of Mongolia poses with his medal REUTERS/Sergio Perez
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Men's 81kg - Medal Ceremony - Nippon Budokan - Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Silver medallist Saeid Mollaei of Mongolia poses with his medal REUTERS/Sergio Perez

The IJF in April banned Iran for four years for refusing to allow its judoka to compete against Israelis.

The case against Iran began when Saeid Mollaei revealed in August 2019 that he had been ordered to lose matches to avoid potentially facing an Israeli opponent.

Mollaei would later defect and won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics while competing for his new country of Mongolia.

Neither Iran nor Algeria officially recognize the existence of the state of Israel.