IOC launches formal probe into Belarus's handling of Olympic runner

Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 03 2021 06:11 PM

The International Olympic Committee launched Tuesday a formal probe into the case of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the Belarusian athlete who was pulled from the Tokyo Olympics over the weekend by her team and has been offered asylum in Poland.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press briefing that the committee is also expecting to receive a report on the case from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee later Tuesday.

Adams said the IOC needs to hear from every person involved in the incident as part of the investigation, adding, "We need to get to the bottom of it."

Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, has been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after she refused to board a flight Sunday at Tokyo's Haneda airport, saying she was being forced to return to Belarus for criticizing her coach.

She is expected to leave Japan for Poland on Wednesday, according to Aleksandr Opeykin, head of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes persecuted for their political views.

She will stay at the Polish Embassy in Tokyo until she departs for Warsaw accompanied by a Polish consul, according to Pavel Latushka, head of the Belarusian opposition group National Anti-Crisis Management.

Asked how long the investigation may take, Adams said that "these things take time" and did not provide a specific time frame for the probe to be completed.

Adams also said the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has been providing support to Tsimanouskaya.

"First and foremost our responsibility is the safety of the athlete," he said.

The sprinter had complained via social media that she was entered in the 4x400 meter relay despite having never competed in the event. She ran in the 100 meters but did not qualify for the semifinals and had been due to make an appearance in the 200-meter heats on Monday but did not compete.

Marcin Przydacz, undersecretary of state for security at the Polish Foreign Ministry, has tweeted that "Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career."

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 of discrimination against athletes who took part in protests against the president's controversial re-election in August 2020.

"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," Tsimanouskaya was quoted as saying earlier by the Belarusian solidarity foundation.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Tuesday denouncing Belarus over Tsimanouskaya's case.

"The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression," Blinken said. "Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated."

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