A 24-year-old female athlete from the European country of Belarus will reportedly seek asylum in another country after the Belarusian Olympic Committee staff allegedly retaliated against her for speaking negatively of them and then tried to take her back home against her will.
The athlete, sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, says she was removed from the olympic team after speaking “about the negligence of our coaches” in an Instagram post, according to Reuters, which spoke to her at the airport in Tokyo. “Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4×400 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,” she said.
Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, is known as Europe’s last dictator, and his country recently made headlines for arresting a journalist critical of his regime while the journalist was flying over Belarusian airspace. In December, the International Olympic Committee banned him from attending the Olympics on behalf of his country.
After Tsimanouskaya criticized her country’s Olympics officials, the Belarusian Olympic Committee claimed that the athlete was withdrawing from participation because of her “emotional and psychological state.” They then took her to the Tokyo airport.
But she claims that the Belarusian Olympic Committee is lying about the reason she left, according to The Washington Post, and after she arrived at the Tokyo airport, she told Japanese authorities that she did not, in fact, want to return to Belarus.
“I am under pressure and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the International Olympic Committee to interfere,” she said in a video posted by Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, a non-governmental organization.
“I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail. I am not afraid that I will be fired or kicked out of the national command,” she told Belarusian media outlet Tribuna. “I am worried about my safety. And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus.”
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader, came out in support of her: “She’s afraid to come back to Minsk. No athlete should be forced this way.”
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
German-language newspaper Deutsche Welle, citing an anonymous source, reports that Tsimanouskaya plans to seek asylum with Germany or Austria on Monday. The International Olympic Committee has said they will stay up-to-date with developments.
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya and the authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days. /2
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) August 1, 2021