Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya feared for her safety after being ordered to return home by her country’s Olympic officials.
The 24-year-old sprinter came to the attention of Belarusian officials after she took to social media to criticise her coaches.
According to Tsimanouskaya, her outspoken posts resulted in her being ordered to pack her bags before being taken to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport against her will.
The aforementioned posts involved Tsimanouskaya calling out her coaches for adding her into the women’s 4x400m relay without her knowledge.
“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4x400m relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests … 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,” explained Tsimanouskaya.
While at the airport, the sprinter was able to secure the protection of Japanese police.
Typical of a dictatorship, Belarus authorities ordered sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to return home from the Tokyo Olympics because she criticized the coaches. She says she will seek asylum. By no means should she be forcibly returned to Belarus. https://t.co/K7LxwY4ZzS pic.twitter.com/a0wB1UTLPY
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) August 1, 2021
The incident drew the attention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Throughout the ordeal, the IOC remained in contact with Tsimanouskaya. Taking to Twitter to keep everyone updated, the IOC tweeted that “Tokyo 2020 have spoken to Krystsina Tsymanouskaya directly … She has told … [them] that she feels safe”.
The IOC has also reached out to the Belarusian Olympic team.
According to them, the decision to remove Tsimanouskaya from the Games was motivated by their “doctors’ advice about her ‘emotional, psychological state’”.
“I will not return to Belarus,” the athlete said when speaking to Reuters.
In footage shared by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), Tsimanouskaya said: “I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent.”
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsymanouskaya was forced by the regime to leave the @Olympics in Tokyo & fly to Belarus after criticizing Belarus’ management of the national team during the games. She’s afraid to come back to Minsk. No athlete should be forced this way. pic.twitter.com/1Ros5scrJG
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) August 1, 2021
The BSSF aims to support Belarusian athletes under the country’s current government.
Last year, Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko faced a wave of public criticism as many believed that the country’s election was rigged in his favour.
Protests were held, with some of Belarus’s top athletes found in attendance. Lukashenko’s son, Viktor Lukashenko, is the president of the country’s Olympic Committee.
According to the head of the BSSF, Aliaksandra Herasimenia, the sprinter is currently looking to seek asylum, and may have found it in Poland.
“We appealed to a number of countries for help … But the first that reacted was the Polish consulate. We are ready to accept their help,” Herasimenia said.
Tsimanouskaya is scheduled to compete in the women’s 200m sprint on Monday. She has already run in the women’s 100m race, placing 4th.