Tunisian swimmer Ous Mellouli, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has announced his retirement from competitive swimming just days before he was scheduled to compete in his 6th Olympic Games.
Mellouli was scheduled to race the open water 10km event at the World Championships after finishing 10th in the final qualifying event in Setubal, Portugal in June. That’s significant because those races are limited to 25 entrants, so Mellouli’s scratch means the race will be one short – at 24 entrants – of the allowed field.
Had Mellouli declined his spot sooner, Sweden’s Elliot Sodemann, who was 14th at the Olympic Marathon Qualifier event, would have been in line to receive that spot.
Mellouli was not entered in any pool races for Tokyo.
The retirement comes amid a dispute with the Tunisian Swimming Federation, Mellouli, and his mom.
The federation has accused the 37-year old Mellouli and his mother Khadija Mellouli of forgery.
The accusations revolve around funding that Ous Mellouli receives from the national federation to continue his training. As part of the arrangement, Mellouli sends invoices to the federation to justify the payments.
At some point, that relationship went south when the national federation began to doubt these invoices and accused Mellouli and his mother of forgery.
Ous Mellouli initially said that he had been summoned to court in the matter 2 weeks ahead of the Olympic Games, interrupting his travel plans. Later, however, the Ministry of Youth and Sport said in a statement that because his mother is the complainant in the case, Ous’ presence was optional.
Nonetheless, Ous Mellouli says that he will retire from international competition anyway.
“After a month of ordeal, I lose all hope of reconciliation or of winning my case. So I decided to retire from international competitions and boycott the Tokyo Games,” Mellouli said on Instagram in French.
Mellouli won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 1500 meter free in the pool, and at the 2012 Olympics he added a gold medal in the open water 10km race and a bronze in the 1500 free. That made him the first swimmer to win medals in both open water and the pool in a single Olympics.
He studied computer science while racing collegiately at USC in the United States.