A Belarusian Olympic athlete who says she refused pressure by her team to return home over her criticism of its staff is safe and under the protection of Japanese police, local media reported on Monday.
Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is currently “safe and secure” after asking for protection from police in Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, refusing to board a plane home following her social media criticism of her coaches, according to Kyodo News, which cited International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams at a press conference.
Confirming Adams, the Japanese government’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the 24-year-old was currently in a “safe situation with the cooperation of related organizations.”
“I ask 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. I asked the IOC to intervene,” Tsimanouskaya previously said in a video posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF).
The BSSF is a group created by sports officials and athletes in 2020 to support athletes repressed, sacked, or excluded for their political views.
Adams said the Olympics’ governing body was looking into the situation and had asked for clarification from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee.
He said Tsimanouskaya was in a hotel near the airport on Sunday night and made contact with police and the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees.
“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue to have conversations with her and the Japanese authorities to determine the next step in the upcoming days,” Adams said, adding that the committee would support the athlete for her decision.
Tsimanouskaya ran in the Tokyo 2020 women’s 100-meter in athletics and was listed for Monday’s 200-meter competition, but did not join the race.
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