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Sudan judoka fighter quits Olympic after avoiding Israel opponent

Israel's Tohar Butbul gets ready to compete in the judo men's -73kg elimination round bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israel's Tohar Butbul gets ready to compete in the judo men's -73kg elimination round bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool has withdrawn from the Olympics Games in Tokyo after being absent from a scheduled fight against an Israeli opponent.

Abdalrasool was set to face Israel's Tohar Butbul in the men's 73kg division today, but did not show up in the round of 32 despite weighing in for the bout earlier.

The International Judo Foundation (IJF) didn't immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn't compete, and the Guardian said that the governing body and Sudanese Olympic officials had not provided an immediate comment on the situation.

This comes after Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the Olympic Games last week in order to avoid the possibility of playing against Butbul.

"We worked a lot to reach the Olympics," he said, "but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this." The decision, he added, was "final".

READ: Syrian brothers on different Olympic teams confuse social media

Nourine also refused to play against Butbul in 2019 when he pulled out of the Judo World championships. He said that his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against an Israeli.

The IJF responded by suspending Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, who said: "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."

In a statement, the IJF said Nourine's position was "in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation."

"The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo," it added.

This is not the first time that politics and the Olympics have collided. At the 2004 games in Athens, the then Iranian world champion Arash Mirasmaeili refused to fight Israeli judoka Ehud Vaks, earning praise from Tehran. At Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was sent home after refusing to shake the hand of Israeli Or Sasson when their bout ended.

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