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Belarusian Olympic athlete ‘ordered to return home against her wishes after complaining about coaches’

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An Olympic athlete from Belarus has said she was ordered to return home after publicly criticising her coaches on social media.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was taken to the airport before she was able to compete in the 200 metres on Monday and 4x400 metres relay on Thursday. She had been able to compete in the first round of the 100m but did not qualify for the next race.

The Reuters news agency reported that she had refused to board a plane home and had sought help from Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

“I will not return to Belarus,” the 24-year-old sprinter told Reuters via Telegram.

Tsimanouskaya appealed for help from police and the IOC (REUTERS)
Tsimanouskaya appealed for help from police and the IOC (REUTERS)

The alleged incident occurred after Tsimanouskaya used her Instagram to document what she called “the negligence of our coaches”.

The sprinter had previously complained she was entered in the relay event after other members of the Belarus team were deemed ineligible to compete because they had not undergone a sufficient number of drug tests.

“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4x400 m relay because they didn't have enough doping tests,” she said.

“And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.”

Officials from the Belarussian team reportedly arrived at her room on Sunday and ordered that she pack her bags before taking her to the airport.

Photos taken at the airport showed her speaking with police. Journalist Tadeusz Giczan posted on Twitter that she had not checked in for her flight on Sunday with Turkish Airlines.

A source at the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes targeted for their political views, told Reuters Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday.

Alexander Opeikin, a spokesman for the activist group, said she was “being transported to a safe place now” and would be in contact with European diplomats.

A self-recorded video showed her appealing for help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A spokesperson for the IOC told The Independent the organisation had “seen the reports in the media, is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC [Belarus National Olympic Committee] for clarification”.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state”.

The Independent contacted the Belarusian Olympic Committee for further comment.

Tokyo police declined a request to comment when approached by Reuters.

Belarus has been gripped by protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994 but faced with mass demonstrations last year over what his opponents called rigged elections, ordered a violent crackdown.

The authoritarian leader and his son, Viktor, run the Belarusian Olympic Committee.

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