International Olympic Committee (IOC) has claimed Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is safe after she alleged she had been taken to the airport in Tokyo against her will following her criticism of her coaches at Tokyo 2020 on social media.
IOC Presidential spokesperson Mark Adams said Tsimanouskaya, who refused to board a flight home to Minsk after alleging Belarusian officials had attempted to “forcibly take me out of the country without my consent”, had spent the night at Haneda Airport.
The 24-year-old told Reuters she “will not return to Belarus”.
“The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me,” she wrote in a video message seemingly from the airport.
“At 5 [pm) they came to my room and told me to pack and they took me to the airport.”
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 refused to reveal who was looking after Tsimanouskaya, who had been due compete in the women’s 200 metres, but insisted she was “safe and secure”.
Adams revealed the organisation was looking into the case and had asked for a “full written report” from the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB).
He added that James Macleod, the director of NOC relations and Olympic Solidarity, was speaking directly to Tsimanouskaya.
“She feels safe and secure,” Adams said.
“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 2020 will continue our discussions with her and understand what the next steps will be and what she wants to pursue.
“Clearly it is unfortunate [that she missed her competition], but we need to avoid speculation.
“We are listening to her, supporting her and making sure she gets what she wants.
“We have been told she is happy.”
Tsimanouskaya, fourth in her 100m heat on Friday (August 30), claimed she plans to apply for asylum in another European country.
The NOCRB had claimed in a statement the “coaching staff of the Belarusian national athletics team made a decision to withdraw Krystsina Tsimanouskaya from the Olympic Games, according to the doctor’s report on her mental and emotional state”.
Tsimanouskaya dismissed the claims and she she had not been seen by a doctor.
The sprinter had previously complained online about being entered into women’s 4×400 metres relay – an event she does not specialise in – due to some of the athletes Belarus planned to enter being barred form the Olympics because they had not been drugs tested enough in the lead-up to the Games.
The President of the NOCRB, Viktor Lukashenko, is banned from attending Tokyo 2020, as is his father and former NOCRB head, Alexander Lukashenko, controversially re-elected as President of Belarus last year in elections widely dismissed as neither free or fair.
The IOC banned both men after finding they had politically discriminated towards athletes, some of whom were imprisoned for taking part in anti-government protests.
The IOC has also suspended funding to the NOCRB and has refused to recognise the election of Viktor Lukashenko as President of the organisation in March.
“We have taken enough action,” said Adams.
“We will continue to look and I don’t want to pre-judge.”
Concern for Tsimanouskaya’s welfare comes after journalist Roman Protasevich was “kidnapped” in May when Belarus dispatched a fighter jet to force a flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk, claiming there was a bomb threat.
Police arrested Protasevich – a Lukashenko critic – and his partner, Sofia Sapega, when the Ryanair plane landed.
Alexander Lukashenko has been critical of the country’s performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where Belarus has won just two medals.
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