Belarus Sprinter Says She Was Forcibly Removed From Olympics for Criticizing Coaches

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said Sunday that she had been removed from the national team and forcibly taken to a Tokyo airport over criticism of her coaches.

In a video released on social media, Tsimanouskaya called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help her avoid being returned to her native country against her will.

"I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the IOC to intervene," she said in the video, which was posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views.

Tsimanouskaya claimed she had been removed from the team due "to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches," and was subsequently taken to the airport to board a flight back to Minsk, France 24 reported.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus said Sunday that she was forcibly removed from the Olympic team and taken to an airport in Tokyo after criticizing her coaches. Here, Tsimanouskaya reacts during Women's 200 m during day four of the 2019 Summer Universiade on July 11, 2019, in Naples, Italy. Ivan Romano/Getty Images

On July 30, Tsimanouskaya alleged in a video posted online that she was entered into an upcoming 400-meter relay event at short notice by Belarusian coaches after other teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.

"I would never in my life begin to react so harshly if they would come up to me in advance, explain the situation and find out if I can run 400m and I am ready? But they decided to do everything behind my back despite the fact that I tried to find out this information but was only ignored," she said in the video.

State media criticized her after the post, with one television channel saying that she lacked "team spirit," according to the BBC.

The 24-year-old alleged that coaching staff then came to her room on Sunday and told her to pack before she had the opportunity to compete in the women's 200 meters race on Monday and the relay race on Thursday.

Timanovskaya is now reportedly at Haneda International Airport police station seeking political asylum to avoid being removed from the country. Belarusian authorities scheduled Timanovskaya to be on a departing flight at 10:50 p.m. Tokyo time, according to CNN.

In response to Timanovskaya's allegations, the Belarusian National Olympic Committee said Sunday that Timanovskaya was withdrawn from the Games due to her "emotional and psychological state."

"According to the doctors' conclusion, due to the emotional and psychological state of the Belarusian track and field athlete Kristina Timanovskaya, the coaching staff of the national track and field team decided to stop the athlete's performance at the Games of the XXXII Olympics," the committee said in a statement.

"Therefore, the athlete's application for participation in the qualifying races for the 200 meter and in the 4x400 meter relay has been withdrawn," it added.

When reached for comment Sunday, the IOC directed Newsweek to a statement from the committee saying that Tsymanouskaya is with authorities at Haneda airport and is being accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020.

"She has told us that she feels safe," the IOC said while adding, "The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya and the authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days."

Update 8/1/21 1:40 p.m. This article has been updated with additional information from the IOC.