A Belarusian Olympic athlete has expressed fears for her safety after she was refused a flight home from the Tokyo Olympics after she publicly complained about her national team coaches.
The Belarusian runner, Kristina Tsimanoskaya, said she was forced to pack her luggage and taken to Tokyo airport against her will.
The 24-year-old says she sought police protection at the airport gate so that she would not board the plane back home.
Surrounded by the police, she was heard saying, “I think I’m safe. I’m with the police now.”
The Belarusian sprinter was scheduled to compete in the 2000 Olympics, which will be held in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, in the women’s 200 meters on Monday; But after she publicly complained about being entered into another race without warning, she said she was told to pack up to go home.
But now it has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to intervene.
The International Olympic Committee said in a short statement that it had seen media reports about the sprinter and had asked the Belarus Olympic Committee for clarification.
According to Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Gekzan, the flight took off without Tsimanskaya on board. She is now with the police at Tokyos Haneda Airport.
“They are trying to get me out of Japan without my permission,” Tsimanoskaya said in a video posted on Telegram. “I am asking the International Olympic Committee to intervene,” she added.
Tsimanoskaya had previously told the European radio station of Belarus ERB that she was afraid to return to her country.
And she claimed in an earlier video on Instagram that she was entered into the 400m relay this Thursday without prior notification by Belarusian officials, after some of her teammates were found ineligible to compete.
State media criticized the runner after she posted the video, and ONT TV said she lacked “team spirit.” On Sunday morning, Tsimanoskaya said her coaches came to her room and told her to pack up and go home. She has reportedly been booked a seat on Turkish Airlines flight 199 from Tokyos Haneda Airport to Istanbul.
The runner told Reuters that she was expelled from her team because “she spoke on her Instagram page about the neglect of her country’s coaches.”
But the Belarusian Olympic team later announced her exclusion from the team due to her “emotional and psychological state”, noting that she would not participate in the 200-meter race or the 400-meter relay race.
The runner is currently waiting at Tokyos Haneda Airport with Japanese police, and according to Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Gekzan, she wants to apply for asylum in Austria.
It was established in August 2020, the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation to support athletes during protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who was re-elected last year in a disputed presidential election. Government forces launched a brutal crackdown after hundreds of thousands protested the elections. Some athletes at the national level participated in these protests, which led to them being stripped of funding, dismissed from national teams, and detained.