Japan said on Tuesday it was keeping a Belarusian Olympian who had taken refuge at the Polish embassy “safe” as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a formal investigation into the incident and the United States United condemned Belarus’ attempts to send her home as intolerable ”. transnational repression ”.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, asked for police protection on Sunday during a standoff at Tokyo airport to avoid returning to Belarus, where she believes her life would be in danger.
The sprinter, who said she was taken to the airport against her will for criticizing her team’s coaches, has now been granted a humanitarian visa from Poland.
Her supporters say she will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday and that her husband, Arseni Zhdanevich, will join her there.
Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday: “We, in cooperation with the parties concerned, are trying to protect her.”
“She is now in a safe situation,” he added.
The incident has drawn attention to Belarus, where police cracked down on dissent following a wave of protests sparked by an election last year that the opposition said was rigged to retain the president Alexander Lukashenko in power.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet that the Lukashenko government “is seeking another act of transnational repression” by “trying to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising her freedom of speech” .
“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to fundamental rights and cannot be tolerated,” he added.
The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: attempting to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising her freedom of expression. Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to fundamental rights and cannot be tolerated.
– Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 3, 2021
The European Union, meanwhile, hailed Poland’s decision to grant Tsimanouskaya a visa and said the attempted repatriation was further proof of the Belarusian president’s “brutal crackdown”.
In Tokyo, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters on Tuesday that the body spoke to the athlete twice on Monday, that she was in a safe and secure place. He said the IOC needed to know all the facts before taking any further action.
“We are waiting and have requested a report from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee for today (Tuesday),” Adams said, adding that the IOC is still gathering the facts. “We want it (report) today. We have decided to launch a formal investigation. We need to establish all the facts. We need to hear from everyone involved.
When asked if an IOC decision on the matter would come during the Games, Adams said it was not possible to estimate how long the investigation would take.
“This can obviously take time. We have to get to the bottom of it. How long it will take, I don’t know, ”he said.
‘Order from above’
The sprinter told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarusian head coach showed up to her room at the Athletes’ Village on Sunday and told her she had to leave.
“The head coach came to me and told me there was an order from above to pull me out,” she wrote in the post. “At 5:00 pm they came to my room and told me to pack my bags and they took me to the airport.”
But she refused to board the plane and requested the protection of the Japanese police.
Tsimanouskaya, who was scheduled to compete in the 200-meter sprint, said she was taken off the squad because she denounced what she described as their coaches’ negligence.
She had complained on Instagram that she was entered in the 4 × 400-meter relay after some team members were found ineligible to compete in the Olympics because they had not undergone enough doping tests.
“And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge,” Tsimanouskaya said.
The Belarusian Olympic Committee said the coaches decided to remove Tsimanouskaya from the Games on the advice of doctors about his “emotional and psychological state”.
Belarusian athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich told state television that he “could see that there was something wrong with her… Either she isolated herself, or she didn’t want to talk ”.
Warsaw-based Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latushko told Reuters that Belarusian officials told Tsimanouskaya’s mother that her daughter was a spy for Western governments and that someone from Lukashenko’s office ‘had approached the mother and asked her to persuade the athlete to come home.
After her withdrawal from the Games, Tsimanouskaya asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn Belarusian Olympic officials’ refusal to let her run the 200 meters.
But the court said in a statement Tuesday that Tsimanouskaya “was unable to prove his case to obtain an interim measure”.