Belarus Olympic athlete says taken to airport against her wishes

1 month ago 20
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Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya asks the IOC for help, accusing her national team of trying to remove her from Japan.

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for assistance, alleging she had been removed from the national team and taken to Tokyo airport against her wishes to be returned home over her criticism of national coaches.

“I am asking the International Olympic Committee for help,” Tsimanouskaya said in a video on Sunday, posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views.

“There is pressure against me. They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission. I am asking the IOC to get involved.”

Tsimanouskaya was due to compete in the women’s 200 metres on Monday. Tsimanouskaya, 24, said the coaching staff had come to her room on Sunday and told her to pack up. She was taken to the city’s Haneda airport before she could run in the 200 metres and 4×400 metres relay on Thursday.

She said she had been removed from the team due “to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches”.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state”.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Tsimanouskaya was due to compete in the women’s 200 metres on Monday [Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters]

Tsimanouskaya had previously complained she was entered in the 4×400 metres relay after some members of the team were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics because they had not undergone doping tests properly.

“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4×400 m relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests,” Tsimanouskaya told Reuters news agency from the airport.

“And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.”

Tsimanouskaya added she was standing next to the Japanese police at the airport and she has reached out to a member of the Belarusian diaspora in Japan to retrieve her at the airport.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has kept a tight grip on Belarus, a former Soviet state, since 1994.

Faced with mass street protests last year over what his opponents called rigged elections, he ordered a violent crackdown on protesters. Lukashenko denies the allegations of vote-rigging.

Unusually in a country where elite athletes often rely on government funding, some prominent Belarusian athletes joined the protests. Several were jailed, including Olympic basketball player Yelena Leuchanka and decathlete Andrei Krauchanka.

Others lost their state employment or were kicked off national teams for supporting the opposition.

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