Olympic officials said Monday an Egyptian judo athlete has been reprimanded and sent home after refusing to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand.
The International Olympic Committee said Islam El Shehaby received a “severe reprimand” for his behavior following his first-round heavyweight bout loss to Or Sasson on Friday.
When Sasson extended his hand, Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee called the 34-year-old Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.
The IOC 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” Shehaby’s actions “and has sent him home,” according to the IOC.
That Monday evening announcement came as the Israeli judokas returned to Tel Aviv from the Rio Games.
On Sunday, Sasson told Army Radio that he did not expect Shehaby to shake his hand, but still decided to extend his own hand to his opponent to show “respect.”
Speaking from Rio de Janeiro two days after winning the bronze medal in the over-100kg tournament, Sasson said that Muslim athletes are often cold toward Israeli competitors, but that while rival judokas may not be friends, they should show appreciation for each other.
“To honor your rival is something I was educated to do,” he told the radio station. “The Olympics is built on respect.”
The Egyptian El Youm el Sabah news site on Sunday quoted Shehaby as saying he did not initially plan to ignore Sasson’s outstretched hand, but that it was rather a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Shehaby claimed he didn’t break any rules by not shaking Sasson’s hand moments after the Israeli threw him to the mat, beating him.
“The Israeli athlete is not my friend who I must greet,” he said, adding, “I worked really hard to get into this Olympics, and in the end it turned into something political.”
Sasson, a two-time European silver medalist who turns 26 on August 18, brushed off the unpleasant encounter with Shehaby in the first round of the tournament and went on to win two more fights, claiming a place in the semifinals against France’s legendary Teddy Riner. After narrowly losing to Riner, he beat Cuba’s Alex Mendoza to claim a bronze.