Tokyo Olympics: Belarus sprinter Tsimanouskaya 'safe' after refusing to fly home

By Sports Desk August 02, 2021

The Belarusian sprinter who refused to board a flight home from Japan after allegedly being taken to the airport against her will is "safe" and being protected at a hotel, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, was in Tokyo to contest the women's 200 metres and 4x400m relay events but was told to pack her things after publicly criticising her team's organisation on social media.

She claimed a Belarusian coach entered her for the relay despite her never racing in the event before, which she suggested was a result of members of the team being considered ineligible due to not completing enough doping tests.

The Belarus National Olympic Committee (NOC) said her withdrawal from competition was due to her "emotional, psychological state", but Tsimanouskaya insisted she was being forced to leave Tokyo "without my consent".

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation indicated Tsimanouskaya feared for her life upon returning to Minsk. The country is under the authoritarian leadership of president Alexander Lukashenko, whose son Viktor heads the NOC.

Last December, IOC president Thomas Bach banned both men from attending the Games, declaring: "The IOC has come to the conclusion that it appears that the current leadership has not appropriately protected the Belarusian athletes from political discrimination within the NOC, their member federations or the sports movement."

Tsimanouskaya managed to alert police at the airport, and IOC spokesman Mark Adams later said at a news conference: "She assured us and has assured us that she feels safe and secure. She spent the night at an airport hotel in a safe and secure environment.

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

Tsimanouskaya has already been offered a visa by Poland.

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