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Algerian Olympian withdraws from Games due to potential matchup with Israeli competitor

(CNN)Algerian judo athlete Fethi Nourine says he has chosen to withdraw from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics rather than face an Israeli competitor.

Nourine told Algeria's Echourouk TV that he "decided to withdraw out of conviction, because this is the very least we can offer the Palestinian cause."

"This is my duty," he said, adding that he wanted to "send a message to the whole world that Israel is an occupation, a lawless country, a country without a flag."

Algeria does not officially recognize Israel.

After announcing his withdrawal, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said on Saturday it was temporarily suspending Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef.

In a statement, the IJF said that the judoka's actions were "in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation."

"The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo," the statement said.

Citing IJF rules and the Olympic Charter, it added that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Nourine and his coach will face a decision by the IJF Disciplinary Commission, and "disciplinary sanctions by the National Olympic Committee of Algeria" on their return home, the statement added.

In the round of 64, the Algerian athlete was scheduled to face Mohamed Abdalrasool from Sudan of the men's 73 kilo (approximately 160 pounds) class, while Israel's Tohar Butbul had a bye as he automatically advanced to the competition's next stage.

According to Reuters, if Nourine had defeated Abdalrasool, the Algerian would have met Israel's Butbul in the following round.

It is not the first time that Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent. He pulled out of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.

Other athletes from countries who do not recognize Israel have previously withdrawn from competing in sports against Israeli opponents.
Iranian athletes have long been prohibited from competing in any sport against Israeli opponents given that Iran does not recognize Israel's legitimacy.
In May, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians escalated into one of the worst rounds of violence between the two sides in the last several years.

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