Belarus Olympic sprinter 'forced to airport against her will' after criticising coach

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Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is seen at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan - reuters/reuters
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is seen at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan - reuters/reuters

A Belarusian Olympic athlete says she is scared of coming back home and is seeking political asylum in Europe after criticising her coaches at the Tokyo Games.

Kryscina Tsimanouskaya told Belarusian media on Sunday that she has been kicked out of the team and forcibly taken to Tokyo airport where she is waiting for a flight to Istanbul.

Belarus has been in political turmoil since last August when Alexander Lukashenko was handed a highly dubious election win, which sparked massive street protests and staggering police violence.

Several top Belarusian athletes have been kicked off the national team for publicly siding with the opposition, and some of them detained and mistreated in custody.

Ms Tsimanouskaya, a sprinter, was kicked out of the team after she posted a video, criticising a last moment decision to put her on the team’s relay race as Belarus found itself short of athletes who had done enough doping tests.

”It turns out that our very cool leaders have decided everything for us as they do," she said in an Instagram video.

"They failed with the girls who don't have enough (doping) tests to go to the first Olympic of their lives. And they’ve decided to put me on the relay race."

 Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is seen at Haneda international airport in Tokyo - reuters/reuters
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is seen at Haneda international airport in Tokyo - reuters/reuters

"Well done guys!” she added, showing a thumbs up. “Why do we have to pay for your blunders?”

She said she found out about the 4x400 metre relay from “random people” and that she was stonewalled by the head of the team.

The Belarusian Fund for Sports Solidarity, which is run by Belarusian athletes supporting the opposition, said in a statement on Sunday that Ms Tsimanouskaya does not feel safe going back to Belarus. It added that she wishes to apply for political asylum somewhere in Europe.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that the athlete was ordered to be sent home due to her “emotional and psychological state.”

Ms Tsimanouskaya denied the reports, saying that she has not had any medical checks recently.

Earlier on Sunday, Belarusian state media lashed out at Ms Tsimanouskaya for being “too emotional.”

The International Olympics Committee [IOC] said it was investigating and had asked the Belarus national team to clarify the situation.

Several top Belarusian athletes as well as opposition politicians last year called on the IOC to suspend the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, saying that "many athletes have been tortured, beaten and arrested" for expressing views against the Lukashenko regime."

The IOC at that time promised to investigate the claims.

One of the athletes, Yelena Leuchanka, who helped Belarus to two Olympic appearances, left the country last year after spending 15 days at Minsk's jail where she was mistreated.

President Lukashenko himself used to chair the National Olympic Committee before his son was elected to replace him in February.

The Lukashenko regime unleashed a wave of unprecedented repressions against opposition supporters last year as the protests against his deeply unpopular rule subsided.

Authorities are pursuing over 4,000 criminal investigations into extremism or terrorism, which are the charges that the government typically uses against dissidents.

Belarus now counts over 600 political prisoners, most of whom are random political activists and protesters who are portrayed by the Lukashenko regime as dangerous extremists

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