Belarus runner alleges Olympic team tried to send her home

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, of Belarus, runs in the women’s 100-meter run at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021. Tsimanouskaya alleged her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan in a dispute that led to a standoff Sunday, Aug. 1, at Tokyo’s main airport. An activist group supporting Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was in danger in Belarus and would seek asylum with the Austrian embassy in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
22:10pm, Sun 01 Aug 2021
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A Belarus sprinter has alleged her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan in a dispute that led to a stand-off at Tokyo’s main airport.

An activist group supporting Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was in danger in Belarus and would seek asylum with the Austrian embassy in the Japanese capital.

Tsimanouskaya said in a filmed message posted on social media that she was pressured by Belarus team officials, and asked the International Olympic Committee for help.

“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” the 24-year-old said.

Tsimanouskaya, who is due to run in the 200-metre heats on Monday, criticised Belarus team officials on her Instagram account, saying she had been put in the 4×400-metre relay despite never racing the event.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (Petr David Josek/AP)

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said government supporters targeted the athlete, and Tsimanouskaya contacted the group for help to avoid what she feared was a forced deportation to Minsk.

“The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” Alexander Opeikin, a spokesman for the BSSF, told the Associated Press.

Tsimanouskaya summoned Japanese police at Haneda Airport and did not board a flight departing for Istanbul. Foreign ministry officials arrived later at the airport, Mr Opeikin said.

In a statement released by the BSSF, Tsimanouskaya said she was in a police station early on Monday morning.

“I explained the situation to a police officer of how I was taken from the Olympic Village,” she said. “Now I am in a secure situation and am figuring out the question of where I will spend the night.”

The IOC, which had been in dispute with the Belarus National Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Games, said it had intervened.

“The IOC… is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC for clarification,” the Olympics said in a statement.

Poland, where many critics of the Minsk regime have gone to live, offered help to Tsimanouskaya. Deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz said on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya has been offered a “humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses”.

Alexander Lukashenko (Sergei Shelega/BelTA/AP)

The Belarus National Olympic Committee has been led for more than 25 years by authoritarian state president Alexander Lukashenko and his son Viktor.

Both Lukashenkos are banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced reprisals and intimidation in fallout from protests since last August after the country’s disputed presidential election.

Tsimanouskaya competed for Belarus on the first day of track events on Friday at the National Stadium in Tokyo. She was fourth in her first-round heat in the 100 metres, timing 11.47 seconds, and did not advance.

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