The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that two Belarusian coaches who walked the short distance at the Tokyo Games for sprinter Kristina Tsimanoskaya have had their accreditations revoked and removed from the athletes’ village.
The IOC said athletics coach Yuri Moiseevich and team official Artur Chumak were asked to leave the Olympic Village, days after they asked Tsimanoskaya to pack her bags and go to the airport.
In an exclusive interview with Reuters in Warsaw on Thursday, Tsimanoskaya said officials told her the order to send her home came from a “high place” in Belarus.
In a story reminiscent of Cold War sporting defections, Tsimanoskaya caused an uproar on Sunday when she refused to board a return flight and sought protection from Japanese police before seeking asylum in Poland, where she met her husband Thursday.
The case of the 24-year-old threatens further isolation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is under Western sanctions after a crackdown on his opponents since last year, and whose son heads the National Olympic Committee.
Tsimanoskaya said officials told her: “We are not the ones who made the decision, we are just implementing it.” “You have 40 minutes. You have to pack your things and go to the airport.”
Lukashenko’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment after Tsimanoskaya’s interview.
The coaches will return to Minsk immediately, the Belarus Olympic Committee said in a statement on Friday, adding that coaches could appeal the decision and that they hoped to continue dialogue with the IOC.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach called Tsimanskaya’s case “unfortunate” this morning and said the disciplinary committee would continue.
“We are happy that Kristina Tsimanoskaya is safe in Poland,” Bach said.
Tsimanoskaya said she decided to escape while being transferred to the Tokyo airport because her grandmother told her it was not safe to go home to Belarus.
She said she would testify in a disciplinary panel and urged the IOC to defend her and the other athletes.
“I hope the IOC will make the right decision and defend the athlete and defend me,” she said.
The International Olympic Committee came under scrutiny for failing to prevent an athlete being expelled from the Games for expressing her views on the coaching staff.
In the past, the Olympics organizing body has acted quickly to suspend athletes, officials or team members – even those with investigations temporarily pending – from the Olympics.
It took four days in the case of the Belarus coaches before they were expelled from the Games.
“For the welfare of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee players who remain in Tokyo, and as a temporary measure, the IOC has rescinded and rescinded coaches’ authorizations last night,” the IOC said on Friday.
They will have the opportunity to be heard.”
The Olympic movement had close relations with the Belarusian government.
Renee Vasyl, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has visited the former Soviet country frequently as it prepares to host this year’s men’s world championships.
Belarus was subsequently stripped of hosting rights due to the crackdown on anti-government protesters and its lax measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Belarusian leader Lukashenko (below), a passionate hockey player, has been keen to boost the country’s standing by hosting international sporting events, including the 2019 European Games.
Spiros Capralos, president of the European Olympic Committees and now a member of the International Olympic Committee, served as head of the event’s coordination committee. Bach had congratulated Lukashenko on the “excellent organization” of the event.
The IOC banned Lukashenko and his son Victor from attending the Games in December, and in March refused to recognize the election of Viktor Lukashenko as head of the Olympic Committee.
Tsimanoskaya, who told Reuters the IOC acted quickly when she was taken to the airport and kept in touch with her, said her teammates had not been in touch, likely because they feared repercussions.
“I think they don’t support me because they are afraid,” she said. “If they say something to support me they may end up badly.”
On the track at 4 x 400 meters on Thursday, Belarusian athletes were steadfast about Tsimanoskaya’s situation.
“The team continues to perform its duties and participate in the competition,” said sprinter Elvira Hermann, who competed in the 4x400m relay for Belarus on Thursday.
“We came here for the Olympics, not to cause trouble.”
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