Sport Olympics Athlete in diplomatic saga flies to Vienna

Athlete in diplomatic saga flies to Vienna

Tsimanouskaya flew to Vienna on Wednesday morning. Photo: Getty
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The International Olympic Committee says it will question two Belarus team officials who were allegedly involved in trying to remove sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya from the Tokyo Olympics.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said it is part of a disciplinary case opened “to establish the facts” in the case of Tsimanouskaya.

After Tsimanouskaya criticised the management of her team on social media, she said officials hustled her to the airport in an attempt to put her on a plane back to Belarus.

The IOC said the Belarus officials under investigation are Artur Shumak and Yuri Moisevich.

Having sought refuge at the Polish embassy in Tokyo, Tsimanouskaya left there on Wednesday morning and boarded an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna, though it wasn’t clear if that was her final destination.

Several countries offered to help her and Poland has given her a visa on humanitarian grounds because she feared her safety would be threatened in Belarus.

The IOC could suspend the Belarusian national Olympic committee ahead of the closing ceremony on Sunday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime of intolerable “transnational repression” in the matter.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, had been due to compete in the women’s 200-metre heats on Monday, but said the Belarusian head coach turned up at her room at the athletes’ village on Sunday and told her she had to leave after she had criticised team officials.

“They made it clear that upon return home I would definitely face some form of punishment,” the 24-year-old told The Associated Press.

“There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me.”

“For now I just want to safely arrive in Europe … meet with people who have been helping me and make a decision what to do next.

“I would very much like to continue my sporting career because I’m just 24 and I had plans for two more Olympics at least.

“For now, the only thing that concerns me is my safety.”

The incident has focussed attention on Belarus, where police have cracked down on dissent following a wave of protests triggered by an election last year which the opposition says was rigged to keep Lukashenko in power.

Belarusian authorities have characterised anti-government protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West, and described the actions of their own law enforcement agencies as appropriate and necessary.

Vitaly Shishov, a Belarusian activist living in exile in Ukraine, was found hanged in a park near his home in Kyiv early on Tuesday, and Ukrainian police launched a murder investigation.

He led an organisation that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution.