Olympic athlete 'kidnapped' after complaining about team officials

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, pictured here at Tokyo airport.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was taken to the airport against her will. Image: Getty/Reuters

A Belarusian sprinter has refused to leave Tokyo after being taken to the airport against her will by team officials after complaining about coaching staff at the Olympics.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24 said coaching staff had come to her room on Sunday and told her to pack.

She said she was then taken directly to Haneda airport by representatives of the Belarusian Olympic team and told to get on a flight back home.

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However she refused and sought protection from the Japanese police instead, telling Reuters in a message over Telegram: "I will not return to Belarus."

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".

Tsimanouskaya was still at Tokyo's Haneda airport in the early hours of Monday morning, with the International Olympic Committee saying it had spoken to the athlete and that she was being accompanied by a Tokyo 2020 staff member.

"She has told us she feels safe," the IOC said in a Twitter post.

In a video published by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, Tsimanouskaya asked the IOC to get involved in her case.

"I have been pressured and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent, so I am asking the IOC to intervene," she said.

A source at the foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday.

The foundation's head, former Olympic swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia, told Reuters that Tsimanouskaya could also be receiving assistance from Poland.

"We appealed to a number of countries for help," said Herasimenia, a three-time Olympic medallist.

"But the first that reacted was the Polish consulate. We are ready to accept their help."

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, pictured here competing in the 100m heats at the Olympics.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (far left) competes in the 100m heats at the Olympics. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya 'kidnapped' after criticising officials

Belarusian state media had reportedly launched a campaign against Tsimanouskaya after she criticised the national team's management on Friday.

Journalist Hanna Liubakova wrote on Twitter: "It's been reported that Kryscina Tsimanouskaya, who publicly criticised the regime and sports officials, is being sent from Tokyo back to Belarus.

"Apparently, representatives of the Belarusian national team took her to the airport. It looks like kidnapping."

Tsimanouskaya ran in the 100m heats on Friday and was scheduled to run in the 200m heats on Monday, along with the 4x400m relay on Thursday.

She said she had been removed from the team due "to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches".

Tsimanouskaya had complained on Instagram that she was entered in the 4x400m relay after some team members were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics because they had not undergone a sufficient amount of doping tests.

"Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4x400m relay because they didn't have enough doping tests," Tsimanouskaya told Reuters from the airport.

"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."

Yuri Moisevich, head of the Belarus athletics team in Tokyo, told state-owned broadcaster STV that the decision had been taken to make changes to the relay team, but they did not announce it immediately so as not to disrupt the athletes' preparation.

"We intended to tell her everything, to explain it, especially as she was a reserve," Moisevich said.

with Reuters

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