Egypt has ordered an athlete to return home from the Olympic Games in Rio after he refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent. At the end of their bout, judoka Islam El Shehaby was approached by Or Sasson who extended a hand – only for the Egyptian to walk away, prompting boos from a distinctly unimpressed crowd.
El Shehaby was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for his actions as Middle East politics crept onto the mat. The Egyptian had come under pressure from hardline Islamists on social media to withdraw from the match.
"You will shame Islam. If you lose, you will shame an entire nation and yourself," said one comment, according to the Telegraph.
El Shehaby said he did not wish to shake hands with an Israeli and was not required to do so under judo rules, but the IOC accused him of undermining the "rules of fair play" and "spirit of friendship".
"The Egyptian Olympic Committee has also strongly condemned the actions of Mr Islam El Shehaby and has sent him home," the IOC said in a statement. "The President of the National Olympic Committee issued a statement saying they respected all athletes and all nations at the Olympic Games."
After Sasson defeated his opponent, the pair retook their places in front of the referee. El Shehaby then backed away as Sasson approached him in an attempt to shake his hand. After being called back by the referee to bow, the Egyptian gave a quick nod before walking away to loud boos from the audience.
"The Disciplinary Commission [DC] considered that his behaviour 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 IOC said.
"The DC issued a 'severe reprimand for inappropriate behaviour' 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.
Following the incident, El Shehaby, 32, defended his actions. "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," he said.
"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."