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Algerian Fethi Nourine would rather be booted from Olympics than face a Israeli

Fethi Nourine withdrew from the Olympics when it became clear he might have to compete against Tohar Bubul.

An Algerian judoka was already out of the Olympics over his refusal to face an opponent from Israel, but now he could miss some other events, too.

Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the men’s 73kg judo event to avoid a potential Round of 32 matchup with Israel’s Tohar Butbul, and his coach Amar Benikhlef have been temporarily suspended, the International Judo Federation announced in a statement Saturday.

The IJF’s justification for the suspension and potential further punishment:

Nourine had been scheduled to face Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool on Monday in the first round of the competition. Had he won, he would have been guaranteed to face Butbul, who had received a first-round bye.

Per the statement, the Algerian Olympic Committee now plans to send Nourine home.

Nourine cited political support for Palestine over the decision, though his refusal is in line with boycotts against Israel athletes seen across the Arab world. Several athletes from Iran, Algeria, Lebanon and others have refused to face Israeli opponents or even compete in events with Israeli participation in recent years.

The country of Iran was hit with a four-year suspension from the IJF earlier this year after former world champion Saeid Mollaei said he was ordered to lose a semifinal match in the 2019 world championships to avoid a finals matchup against an Israeli opponent. Nourine did the same thing at the 2019 world championships, withdrawing rather than face Butbul.

Nourine and Benikhlef will now face an investigation from an IJF commission to confirm the facts of their withdrawal, with the federation’s disciplinary commission to handle final sanctioning beyond the Olympics.

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