Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she 'faced punishment' on forced return to country
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said Belarus officials made it clear she would face punishment if she returned home after alleging they tried to force her to fly home from the Tokyo Olympics; Sprinter plans to seek political asylum in Poland
Last Updated: 03/08/21 11:42am
Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who plans to seek refuge in Poland after accusing team officials of trying to force her to leave the Tokyo Games early, said on Tuesday that officials from her country made it clear she would face punishment if she returned home.
Tsimanouskaya, who had criticised the management of her team on social media, said officials hustled her to the airport and tried to put her on a plane back to Belarus. She said she hopes to continue her career, but, for now, her safety remains a priority.
Several countries offered her help, and Poland granted her a humanitarian visa on Monday. She plans to fly to Warsaw later in the week, according to an activist group that is helping her.
"They [Belarus officials] made it clear that upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment," the 24-year-old sprinter said in a video interview with the Associated Press. "There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me."
She added that she believed she would be kicked off of the national team. She hopes to be able to continue running once she has reached safety.
"For now, I just want to safely arrive in Europe ... meet with people who have been helping me and make a decision what to do next," Tsimanouskaya said.
"I would very much like to continue my sporting career because I'm just 24 and I had plans for two more Olympics at least," she said. "For now, the only thing that concerns me is my safety."
Tsimanouskaya had been due to compete in the women's 200m and the 4x400 metres relay at the Tokyo Olympics this week, but she criticised team officials on her Instagram account, saying she was put in the relay despite never having raced in the event before.
She had also claimed some members of her team were judged ineligible to compete because they had not undergone enough doping tests.
Coaching staff went to Tsimanouskaya's room and told her to pack as a response to what she had said, she claimed.
When she arrived at the airport, she summoned Japanese police and refused to board the flight to Minsk via Istanbul.
On Tuesday, Tsimanouskaya called for an investigation and possibly taking sanctions against the head coach who "approached me and who deprived me of the right to compete in the Olympic Games".
She said she wanted international sports authorities to "investigate the situation, who gave the order, who actually took the decision that I can't compete anymore?".