Belarus Olympics kidnapping: Team officials bundle female sprinter to the Tokyo airport and try to force her back home after she criticised national coaches
Belarusian Olympic officials allegedly bundled a female sprinter to an airport in Tokyo to try to force her back home on Sunday after she publicly criticised national coaches in what is feared to be an attempted kidnapping.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the women’s 200m race on Monday, told Reuters she did not plan to return to Belarus and that she had sought the protection of Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda airport so she would not have to board the flight.
‘I will not return to Belarus,’ she told Reuters in a message over Telegram. The Belarusian Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, said coaching staff had come to her room on Sunday and told her to pack. She was taken to the airport before she could run in the 200m and 4x400m relay on Thursday.
She had previously alleged that she was entered into the relay event on Thursday at short notice by Belarusian officials after some team mates were found to be ineligible to compete. The sprinter is now in the airport with Japanese police, and, according to Belarus journalist Tadeusz Giczan, wants to apply for asylum in Austria.
Dissident journalists said that Belarusian state media launched a campaign against her after she criticised Belarus national team’s management on Friday.
Minsk-based journalist Hanna Liubakova said on Twitter: ‘It’s been reported that Kryscina Tsimanouskaya, who publicly criticized the regime and sports officials, is being sent from Tokyo back to Belarus. Apparently, representatives of the Belarusian national team took her to the airport. It looks like kidnapping’.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the women’s 200 meters on Monday, told Reuters she did not plan to return to her country and that she had sought the protection of Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda airport so she would not have to board the flight
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya talks with a police officer at Haneda international airport in Tokyo
She later posted a video which appeared to show the athlete at the airport, tweeting: ‘Tsimanouskaya was accompanied to the airport by two members of the Belarusian sports delegation. She is now with the police and volunteers. When asked if she was afraid to fly to #Belarus, Tsimanouskaya answered ‘yes’.’
Tsimanouskaya had previously complained she was entered in the 4x400m relay after some members of the team were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics because they had not undergone a sufficient amount of doping tests.
‘Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4x400m relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests,’ Tsimanouskaya told Reuters from the airport.
‘And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.’
Tsimanouskaya added she was standing next to Japanese police at the airport and she has reached out to a member of the Belarusian diaspora in Japan to retrieve her at the airport.
Haneda police said there was no one immediately available to comment.