Egyptian Judoka Sent Home for Refusing to Shake Israeli's Hand

Islam el-Shahabi refused to shake hands with Or Sasson after losing to him in Rio match.

Egypt's Islam el-Shahabi, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel's Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men's over 100-kg judo competition, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 12, 2016.
Markus Schreiber, AP

Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shahabi has been sent home by his national team after he refused to shake hands with an Israeli judoka to whom he had lost a match last Friday, officials said Monday.

Israeli Or Sasson, who went on to win a bronze medal, had just defeated the Egyptian when he bowed to the Egyptian. El-Shahabi stayed upright, and when Sasson approached him, his hand outstretched, the Egyptian snubbed the gesture. El-Sharabi stepped off the mat, to the audience's boos. 

The International Olympic Committee said Islam el-Shahabi received a "severe reprimand" for his behavior following his first-round heavyweight bout loss to Or Sasson on Friday.

The IOC, which set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the incident, said the Egyptian's conduct "was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic values."

The Egyptian Olympic Committee also "strongly condemned" el-Shahabi's actions "and has sent him home," the IOC said.

The IOC also asked the Egyptian committee to make sure that all its athletes "receive proper education on the Olympic values before coming to the Olympic Games."

Ahead of the match Egyptian media reported that el-Shahabi may forfeit the match completely, just to avoid facing an Israeli opponent. Such forfeits are not uncommon. However, Egyptian judokas usually opt for the compromise el-Shahabi eventually took: Fighting the match, but refusing to shake hands.

Sasson went on to qualify for the semifinals, after beating Polish and Dutch opponents, sparking hopes of a second medal for Israel

The incident was not the first drama to unfold between Israeli athletes and their Arab counterparts at the Olympics in Rio.

Last week, the Lebanese delegation barred Israeli athletes from boarding a bus the two teams were meant to take to the opening ceremony. Officials ended up organizing a separate bus ride for the Israeli delegation.    

The head of the Lebanese group, who physically blocked the Israeli athletes from boarding the shuttle, was later reprimanded by the International Olympics Committee.