IOC revokes accreditation of Belarus officials

1:41 pm on 6 August 2021

Two Belarus Olympic officials involved in attempting to send sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya home from the Tokyo Olympics have had their Games accreditation revoked and will be leaving Tokyo, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

Belarusian Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latushko attend a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. T

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya attends a press conference in Warsaw alongside Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latushko. Photo: AFP

The International Olympic Committee has confirmed the removal of the officials.

Belarus athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich and team official Artur Shumak have been taken out of the athletes' village where the teams stay at the Games, the person told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The IOC, which earlier this week named the two as being involved in the incident, had launched disciplinary proceedings against the officials two days ago.

The pair had been staying with the team at the village even after Tsimanouskaya had left Tokyo, in a case reminiscent of athletes' defections during the Cold War.

"The two have had their accreditation removed," the person said. "They have been taken out of the Olympic village and will be going home."

The Belarus Olympic team in Tokyo was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Tsimanouskaya caused a furore on Sunday when she said coaches angry at her criticism over sporting issues had ordered her to pack and go to the airport before she even competed in Tokyo.

She refused to board a flight home and sought protection from Japanese police at the airport and then stayed at the Polish embassy for two nights before flying to the capital Warsaw via Vienna.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya seen in Warsaw on July 5, 2021. (Photo by Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto) (Photo by Maciej Luczniewski / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

Photo: AFP

The 24-year-old athlete's case could further isolate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is under Western sanctions after a crackdown on opponents since last year.

Poland has long been critical of Lukashenko's authoritarian rule and has harboured many activists from Belarus.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters on Thursday, Tsimanouskaya said she decided to defect as she was being driven to a Tokyo airport because her grandmother told her that it was not safe to return home to Belarus.

"I have always been far from politics, I didn't sign any letters or go to any protests, I didn't say anything against the Belarusian government," she said.

"I'm a sportsperson and I didn't understand anything in political life. I try not to do anything other than a sport in my life and I try my best to not be distracted by politics."

The Belarus National Olympic Committee (NOC) at the time had said coaches withdrew Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors' advice about her emotional and psychological state.

- Reuters

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