Egyptian judo athlete Islam El Shehaby was sent packing from the Rio Olympics after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson, following their match on Friday, the International Olympic Committee said.
The IOC told the Associated Press Monday that El Shehaby received a “severe reprimand.”
Sasson defeated El Shehaby with two throws for an automatic victory. But instead of standing up and bowing per the sport’s custom, El Shehaby seemed to linger. When he finally did get up, he refused Sasson’s offer to shake hands — a big no-no in judo.
The crowd was clearly not pleased with El Shehaby’s apparent lack of sportsmanship, loudly jeering the Egyptian athlete.
El Shehaby’s refusal to abide by the rules of the sport made headlines around the world, underscoring the fragile peace treaty between the two countries, which was signed in 1979.
According to the International Judo Federation’s website, “Of the many rituals that are a part of judo, perhaps none is clearer and poignant than the bow.” The IJF site goes on to explain that bowing is “a signal of respect. Judo students bow when entering and leaving the dojo.”
The incident inevitably made headlines in Israel. Mako, one the country’s leading news sites, reported that El Shehaby has decided to retire from judo following his loss.
El Shehaby had been under intense pressure from Islamists in Egypt to drop out of the Rio Summer Olympics altogether. The day before the fight, a TV host in the country’s Islamist network, Al-Sharq, called on El Shehaby to withdraw from the Rio Games or be branded a traitor.
“My son watch out, don’t be fooled, or fool yourself thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” he said. “Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.”
This isn’t the first time that an incident like this has happened.
In 2012, Egyptian judoka Ramadan Darwish refused to shake hands with Arik Zeevi, his Israeli rival, after the Judo Grand Prix in Dusseldorf quarterfinals in Germany. An Egyptian website called him a “national hero.”
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace accord with Israel after five wars in three decades.
You can watch El Shehaby’s actions in the video below.