Belarusian athlete transported to airport after coach criticism

Belarusian sprint star Kristina Tsimanuskaya has been taken to Tokyo Airport against her will to fly back home. The athlete reported this to Reuters news agency via Telegrams message service.

According to the 24-year-old sprint star, she was kicked off the team after criticizing her coaches on Instagram.

Tsimanuskaya says she called for help from the Japanese police at the airport because she does not want to return to Belarus:

Tsimanuskaya said she was unexpectedly told today that she had to pack her stuff. She was then brought to the airport in the company of a member of the Belarusian delegation and a psychologist. The head coach told her that โ€œan order had come from aboveโ€ that she had to leave.

โ€œShe published a very furious post on her Instagram yesterday,โ€ says correspondent Geert Groot Koerkamp. โ€œShe had trained for the 200 metre running, but she had to take part in the 4×400 meter relay from the Belarusian committee. She didnt train for that at all. And she erupted in anger about that on Instagram.โ€

In that message, Tsimanuskaya says that, like the women who had trained before, she must now pay for the failure of the Belarusian Olympic Committee that did not have enough doping tests to ensure that athletes could leave for Tokyo in time. That committee is led by the son of President Lukashenko of Belarus.

According to the athlete, the team leader decided for her without consultation:

According to Groot Koerkamp, her eruption was extensively recorded on Belarusian television yesterday. โ€œWhat she has done, just expressing her opinion because shes angry about the failure of Belarusian officials, is not done in a country where there is simply no criticism of the leadership. Thats why the floor with her was wiped on the television. The result was apparently that the Belarusian authorities thought she had to go home.โ€

Emotional and mental problems

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that Tsimanuskaya was sent home on doctors advice โ€œbecause of her emotional and psychological stateโ€.

She was supposed to fly to Istanbul and switch to a flight to Belarus, but that flight left without her. โ€œShe said she wants to apply for political asylum in a European country, possibly from the Austrian Embassy in Tokyo,โ€ says Groot Koerkamp.

In a video message, the sprint star also asked the International Olympic Committee for help. The IOC asked for clarification from the Belarusian Olympic Committee.

An IOC employee has been at Tsimanuskaya at the airport to assist her. โ€œShe told us she feels safe now,โ€ writes the IOC on Twitter. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya thanks the IOC on Twitter for the quick response to the situation of Tsimanuskaya.

International scandal

The IOC does not like Lukashenko, who has been chairman of the Olympic Committee in his country for a long time. In December, the IOC suspended him for all Olympic activities, which means as much as hes not welcome to Tokyo. Athletes had complained of political discrimination and imprisonment by the authorities at the IOC. Issues that, according to the IOC, violate the fundamental principles of the Olympic Manifesto and that โ€œhave serious consequences for the reputation of the Olympic movementโ€.

According to Groot Kurkamp, the chances that sprint star Kristina Tsimanuskaja will indeed return home is not that big. โ€œCertainly not because were dealing with a pretty big international scandal right now.โ€

Independent Belarusian journalists report that the athlete is no longer at the airport. She would have been taken to an unspecified safe place to spend the night.