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Tunisian swimmer Mellouli withdraws from Tokyo Olympics

Tunisian swimmer Mellouli withdraws from Tokyo Olympics

Tunisian swimmer Osama Mellouli, who won two Olympic golds, announced that he will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, which opens Friday, due to a judicial dispute with the local federation for the game, which filed a lawsuit against the 37-year-old and forced him to appear in court.

Ittihad Mellouli, the world champion in the 1500m freestyle in 2008 and 2009, is suing for the use of funds allocated under a contract between them that has been in effect since 1999.

Mellouli’s relationship with the Tunisian Swimming Federation was strained against the background of the value of the financial grants allocated to him to train in preparation for world competitions.

The crisis between them reached the courts a few days ago, as the Tunisian swimmer appeared before the judiciary in a case brought against him by the Federation two years ago, accusing him of stealing and looting public money through grants he receives, a charge that Mellouli denies.

Mellouli qualified to run the 10 km freestyle in the open waters at the Tokyo Olympics, and he won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 1500 m freestyle, and the gold in the 10 km freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, in which he also won the bronze in the 1500 m freestyle.

According to the swimmer, the federation took advantage of this trial to not pay the amount of 600,000 dinars owed to him for the exercises he participated in for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons.

Last week, the Sports Ministry launched an audit to see where the money went.

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Since 2018, Mellouli has been preparing at his own expense, and he told Agence France-Presse: The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I learned that I was going to the Olympics alone, without a physiotherapist who was not given permission to travel to Tokyo.

He added: “I am a high-level athlete who struggles to the end with perseverance and patience, but here I throw the towel and withdraw. I do not expect training conditions at a European or American level, but the lowest standards of success must at least be present.”

The Tunisian Olympic Committee, which hopes for Mellouli’s return for his decision, revealed that two of the swimmer’s crew, who gave his country three of its 13 Olympic medals in its history, were granted permission to travel with him and that everything was done to allow him to compete quietly despite the late qualification to the games.

Mellouli stressed the desire to always break records and prepare to travel to Tokyo on Saturday, as previously planned, if an immediate solution is found to be psychologically ready, but he is still pessimistic about reaching a happy ending.