The Belarusian athlete Krystina Tsimanouskaya, who was participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, requested protection from the police authorities at Haneda airport after Belarusian Olympic authorities tried to forcibly return her to the country following the publication of messages critical of her coaches and managers.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that the sprinter is safe. Both Poland and the Czech Republic offered asylum to the athlete, who was filmed by Reuters on Monday entering the Polish embassy.
Tsimanouskaya was due to take part in the women’s 200 meters this Monday and had protested in a video on networks because she had been entered in another race, the 4×100 relay, which she was not scheduled to take part in, after other athletes were excluded from the event.
She claimed that she was “under pressure” from the Belarusian track and field team officials and had been asked to return to her country, for which she had asked the IOC for help.
A conversation between the Belarusian athlete and the coach of the national team, Yuri Maisevich, was also leaked on Twitter, who assures that the young woman should leave the competition because of her “emotional state”, but in the audio the young woman is heard crying because of possible threats.
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers said they spoke to the athlete following the incident on Sunday, and are in contact with the relevant authorities to manage the steps to be taken in the coming days.
“She is in a place where she feels safe and they are looking after her,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a news conference when asked about the whereabouts of the 24-year-old athlete.
“The sprinter spent the night at a facility near the airport and is now being cared for by the authorities,” Adams added.
The IOC spokesman also assured that the case is still under investigation and they have done everything in their power to help the young woman, and that the development of the investigation will determine future steps.
The repression of Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’ dictator for 27 years, against the country’s athletes is nothing new. The Belarus Olympic Committee is vetoed by the IOC, which does not recognize the president’s son as the leader of the national Olympic committee and who is not allowed to attend any Olympic event.
Several European countries have offered to give asylum to the Belarusian athlete
In response, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said Tsimanouskaya was in direct contact with Polish diplomats in Tokyo and that Poland would do “everything necessary to help her continue her athletic career.”
For his part, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek also proposed a humanitarian visa so that the young woman can continue her career. “The Japanese authorities have just confirmed to us that the athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has received our offer of asylum.”
“If you decide to accept it, we will do our best to help you. The Olympic Games have nothing to do with politics, the methods of the Lukashenko regime are absolutely shameful,” he added.