Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool did not show up Monday to a scheduled match with his Israeli counterpart Tohar Butbul, dropping out of the games.
The International Judo Federation has not yet issued a statement explaining the reason behind Abdalrasool’s absence at the game.
Nor did the IJF issue a comment to The Associated Press.
Abdalrasool did not say why he didn’t turn up to compete against Butbul despite showing up for the weigh-in ahead of the match, nor did Sudanese Olympics officials comment on the matter or issue a statement.
According to the AP, from what Butbul’s team was told, Abdalrasool had a shoulder injury. Butbul and the team, however, do not seem convinced by that reason, the wire service reported.
The fact that Abdalrasool’s withdrawal comes just days after Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew to avoid playing against Butbul led some to suspect that there was a political motivation behind Abdalrasool’s exit from the games.
Tokyo Olympics: Sudanese judoka withdraws from judo competition just to avoid facing Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul.
— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) July 26, 2021
Nourine had withdrawn from the Olympics on Thursday, telling local media in Algeria: “We have worked hard to qualify for the games, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all that.
“My position is consistent on the Palestinian issue, and I reject normalization [with Israel], and if it cost me that absence from the Olympic Games, God will compensate.”
“We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision,” Nourine’s coach told local Algerian media.
The IJF swiftly suspended the duo, albeit temporarily, pending an investigation, after which a final decision will be made.
The organization stressed Saturday that “[j]udo sport is based on a strong moral code, including respect and friendship, to foster solidarity and we will not tolerate any discrimination, as it goes against the core values and principles of our sport.”
The IJF, in line with the Olympic Committee’s own policies, strongly rejects the politicization of sport. The federation has especially demonstrated no tolerance of one country’s players boycotting another’s due to their national origin.
Earlier this year, the federation suspended Iran’s judo federation for four years after an investigation revealed a scheme whereby an Iranian athlete was “required to lose before even getting to the point where he had to face an Israeli athlete.”
“These are things that sometimes occur in judo, so it wasn’t that odd for me,” Butbul said of the withdrawals, according to the AP.
“I just had to wait, stay focused and wait for my first chance.”
Butbul would go on to compete against Victor Sterpu of Moldova and An Changrim of South Korea before losing to Arthur Margelidon of Canada and finishing in seventh place.
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