Belarus sprinter 'safe' in Japan after removal from Olympics: IOC

Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 02 2021 06:20 PM

Belarus sprinter 'safe' in Japan after removal from Olympics: IOC 1
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrives at the Polish embassy in Tokyo, Japan, August 2, 2021. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters

A Belarusian sprinter who refused to board a flight home after saying her team forced her out of the Tokyo Olympics is "safe and secure" in Japan, the International Olympic Committee said Monday.

"I've been put under pressure, and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent," Krystsina Tsimanouskaya had said in a video posted on social media the previous day.

The IOC is seeking clarification on the incident from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, spokesman Mark Adams told a press briefing.

Separately, Japan's top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the sprinter, who sought protection from police at Tokyo's Haneda airport, is in a "safe situation with the cooperation of related organizations," and they are working to confirm her intentions.

Tsimanouskaya had complained via social media that her coach entered her in the 4x400 relay despite not training for the event. The 24-year-old ran in the 100 meters and was listed for the 200-meter heats on Monday but did not compete.

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee is headed by Viktor Lukashenko, son of the country's president Alexander Lukashenko.

Both have been banned from attending the Tokyo Olympics amid allegations that the national committee discriminated against athletes who took part in protests against the president's controversial re-election.

"I'm afraid that in Belarus I may be imprisoned. I'm not afraid of being fired or kicked out of the national team. I worry about my safety," the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes persecuted for their political views, quoted Tsimanouskaya as saying.

She plans to seek asylum in Europe, the group said. Later Monday, Tsimanouskaya entered the Polish Embassy in Tokyo, according to Reuters.

Adams said Tsimanouskaya spent the night at a hotel near the airport and was in touch with local police as well as the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue to have conversations with her and the Japanese authorities to determine the next step in the upcoming days," Adams said.

"We're talking again to her this morning to understand what those next steps could be, what she wants to pursue, and we will give her support in that decision," he said.

Several European countries offered to assist Tsimanouskaya, with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa tweeting that she is "welcome" in his country.

"The Czech Republic is ready to help," Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said on Twitter, calling the incident "scandalous" and offering to issue her a visa and provide help through the Czech Embassy in Tokyo.

Polish Foreign Ministry official Marcin Przydacz also tweeted that his country is prepared to give her a visa, saying she is "free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses."

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