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Belarusian athlete under police protection at Tokyo airport after being ordered home

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is escorted by police officers at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan August 1, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato (ISSEI KATO/)

The IOC says Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya “feels safe” with authorities at Tokyo’s Haneda airport after she refused to board a flight home against her will.

Tsimanouskaya, according to reports by Reuters and the BBC, said she was taken to the airport against her wishes after complaining about national coaches at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

She sought protection from police at the airport rather than boarding the plane.

“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have spoken to Krystsina Tsymanouskaya directly tonight. She is with the authorities at Haneda airport and is currently accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020. She has told us that she feels safe,” an IOC statement released on Twitter said.

“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya and the authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days,” the statement concluded.

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Women's 100m - Round 1 - OLS - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 30, 2021. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus reacts after competing in Heat 6 REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Athletics – Women’s 100m – Round 1 – OLS – Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – July 30, 2021. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus reacts after competing in Heat 6 REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo (ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL/)

The 24-year-old was scheduled to compete in the women’s 200m event on Monday and complained on social media about being entered into an additional race on short notice.

The IOC said it is asking the Belarusian Olympic Committee for clarification. The NOC had said in an earlier statement that Tsimanouskaya was being withdrawn from the Games on doctors’ advice due to her “emotional, psychological state”.

Tsimanouskaya had asked for the IOC to intervene in a video posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation. The BSSF is a group founded to support athletes jailed or penalized with a loss of government funding for their political views.

Many athletes have spoken out against the authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Mass street protests began last year shortly after Lukashenko was re-elected in what is widely accepted as a rigged election.

The IOC in December suspended Lukashenko, who was then the Belarus NOC president, and his son Viktor, the first vice-president. IOC President Thomas Bach said the Belarus NOC had not “appropriately protected Belarus athletes from political discrimination” within sports organizations in the country.

Victor Lukashenko was elected as president of the NOC in February, an election that was not recognized by the IOC.

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