Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has spent the night in an airport hotel in Tokyo, with an International Olympic Committee (IOC) official saying she is “safe and secure” after she alleged her team tried to force her to board a flight home from Tokyo 2020.
The sprinter was due to take part in Monday's heats for the 200m, but having publicly criticised her coaches, she claims Belarus’ head coach turned up at her room on Sunday and told her to pack her bags.
On Monday morning, Tsimanouskaya was spotted arriving at the Polish embassy in Tokyo, where she is reportedly applying for a visa. Her husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, has told Sky News he has fled Belarus for Ukraine, saying he "didn't think it would get this serious".
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The country is currently subject to financial sanctions from the UK, European Union and USA over human rights abuses under the leadership of president Alexander Lukashenko. His son, Viktor Lukashenko, is head of the Belarus Olympic Committee.
The national team said in a statement that Tsimanouskaya had been removed from competition because of her “emotional, psychological state” but the athlete says she will not return home.
“She assured us and has assured us that she feels safe and secure,” said IOC spokesperson Mark Adams.
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.
“We're talking again to her this morning to understand what those next steps could be, what she wants to pursue and we will give her support in that decision. She is in the hands of the authorities at the moment. We have also asked the Belarus NOC for a full written report.
"What I can tell you is that the athlete requested our protection at Haneda Airport, which is why we were able to understand that she was there, and obviously the Tokyo 2020 staff members were there. That's exactly why we were able to find her there, and no more than that."
While diplomatic relations between Belarus and the rest of the world are currently shaky, it is the same situation between the country and the IOC, which does not recognise the election of Viktor Lukashenko.
“In terms of whether we've done enough, this is a story that's been going on now with Belarus institutionally now for about a year,” said Adams.
“Belarusian athletes can take part in qualification events without any political discrimination, and we've suspended any discussion with the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of Belarus regarding of course any hosting of any future events.
The most important thing at the moment is our duty of care to her, which is why we spoke to her yesterday. We continue to be in touch with her today.
"We've assured ourselves that she had a safe place to stay last night and was under protection and this morning we will continue those conversations with her.”
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