Shortly before the Tokyo Olympics were set to begin, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew himself from the competition to avoid facing an Israeli competitor.
Nourine decided against participating in the judo wrestling portion of the Olympics on Thursday after he was drawn in the under-73kg category into a bracket with a potential matchup against Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the second round, if Nourine won his first bout.
“We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision,” Nourine’s coach Amar Ben Yaklif told Algerian media, according to the Times of Israel.
Nourine was scheduled to face Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool on Monday to open his Games, but a win would’ve slotted him against Butbul, who had a first-round bye. Nourine, 30, has withdrawn from an event before to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.
At the 2019 Judoka World Championships, he was also drawn against Butbul. He pulled out that time, too.
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued through the decades, other athletes have avoided matchups with Israeli competitors. Iran was hit with a four-year judo ban in April by the International Judo Federation, backdated to 2019, for ordering their athletes to avoid matchups with Israeli athletes.
At the 2016 Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake the hand of Israel’s Or Sasson after a bout in the over-100kg competition. Shahaby had faced pressure in the buildup to the fight to withdraw rather than face the Israeli judoka.