Belarusian track sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya claimed her Olympic team tried to send her home from Japan after she complained about national coaches at the Tokyo Olympics but planned to avoid getting on the plane.
An activist group supporting Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was in danger in Belarus and would seek asylum with the Austrian embassy in Tokyo.
Tsimanouskaya said in a filmed message distributed on social media she was pressured by Belarus team officials and asked the International Olympic Committee for help.
“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” the 24-year-old runner said.
Tsimanouskaya, who is due to run in the Olympic 200-meter heats Monday, criticized Belarus team officials on her Instagram account. She said she’d been put in the 4x400 relay despite never racing the event.
The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said government supporters targeted the athlete, and Tsimanouskaya contacted the group for help to avoid what she feared was forced deportation to Minsk.
“The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” Alexander Opeikin, a spokesperson for the BSSF, told The Associated Press in an interview.
Tsimanouskaya summoned Japanese police at Haneda Airport and did not board a flight departing for Istanbul. Foreign ministry officials arrived later at the airport, Opeikin said.
In a statement released by the BSSF, Tsimanouskaya said she was in a police station early Monday morning.
"I explained the situation to a police officer of how I was taken from the Olympic Village," she said. "Now I am in a secure situation and am figuring out the question of where I will spend the night.
The IOC, which has been in dispute with the Belarus National Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Games, said it had intervened.
“The IOC ... is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC for clarification,” the Olympics said in a statement.
The Belarus National Olympic Committee has been led for more than 25 years by authoritarian state president Alexander Lukashenko and his son, Viktor.
Both Lukashenkos are banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced reprisals and intimidation in the fallout from protests since last August after the country's disputed presidential election.
A spokesperson for the Belarus Olympic team did not respond to a request for comment.
Tsimanouskaya was taken to a safe place and would ask for asylum from the Austrian embassy, Opeikin said.
Tsimanouskaya already competed for Belarus on the first day of track events Friday at the National Stadium in Tokyo. She placed fourth in her first-round heat in the 100 meters, timing 11.47 seconds, and did not advance.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.