Rio 2016: Egyptian Judo Competitor Sent Home for Refusing Handshake With Israeli Rival

Islam el-Shahabi and Or Sasson
Or Sasson of Israel (right) and Islam el-Shahabi of Egypt compete in the 100kg judo weight class, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 12. El-Shahabi's team has sent him home after he refused to shake the hand of his Israeli rival. Reuters/Toru Hanai

The Egyptian judo team has sent home the judoka who caused controversy by not shaking the hand of his Israeli rival after a loss at the Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed on Monday.

El-Shahabi's expulsion from the games comes after his controversial decision to refuse Israeli Or Sasson's hand after losing to him in the 100-kilogram weight category. Sasson received a penalty in the bout but went on to secure victory with a wazari and an ippon. The crowd booed el-Shahabi when he refused to shake hands.

The IOC admonished el-Shahabi for his actions as it was counter to the spirit of the Olympics and the nature of fair play at the summer games.

"The President of the National Olympic Committee issued a statement saying they respected all athletes and all nations at the Olympic Games," the IOC said.

"The Disciplinary Commission (DC) considered that his behavior at the end of the competition was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic Values," the statement continued. "The DC issued a 'severe reprimand for inappropriate behavior' to the athlete. It noted…the shaking of hands after a match is not in the competition rules of the International Judo Federation.

"As well as a severe reprimand, the DC has asked the Egyptian Olympic Committee to ensure in future that all their athletes receive proper education on the Olympic Values before coming to the Olympic Games," the IOC said.

El-Shahabi said that he did not want to shake hands with his competitor and did not think that he was obliged to under the rules of judo, according to Reuters.

"Shaking the hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he's not my friend," el-Shahabi said after the incident. "I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion or different beliefs. But for personal reasons, you can't ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this state, especially in front of the whole world."

The Egyptian competitor had faced pressure from Egyptians on social media to not attend the bout as facing an Israeli competitor would hand the country a legitimacy that many in Egypt feel it does not deserve. Public opinion in the Arab country is fiercely anti-Israel.

Egypt and Israel conduct secretive relations but if officials are seen to be fraternizing with their Israeli counterparts, they are widely condemned.

In February, Tawfik Okasha, an Egyptian MP, was forced to resign after he hosted the Israeli ambassador for a dinner. He was roundly condemned by the Egyptian media and the country's political elite. Okasha was hit by a shoe in Cairo's parliament in protest at his meeting.

But Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry last month paid an official visit to Israel, the first by a top Egyptian official for a decade. The ministry was still forced to deny that the country's top diplomat watched the Euro 2016 final with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Israeli leader posted a picture to Twitter of the pair watching the game on a screen at his official residence.

The refusal of the Egyptian judoka to shake hands comes as Israel's competitors have faced a series of issues from delegations of the Arab world.

Just days before Sasson's victory, Israeli media reports suggested that a Saudi judo competitor pulled out of her first-round match because of a prospective second-round bout tie with an Israeli rival.

In another move that angered Israeli officials, the Lebanese delegation at the Games refused to permit Israeli competitors on board their bus, a further sign of lingering political tensions between the two countries.