A Belarus track sprinter has alleged her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan
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TOKYO — A Belarus track sprinter alleged her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan in a dispute that led to a standoff Sunday evening at Tokyo’s main airport.
An activist group supporting Krystsina 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 4×400 relay despite never racing the event.
The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation group said government supporters targeted the athlete, who contacted it for help to avoid what she feared was a 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 spokesman 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.
The IOC, which has been in dispute with the Belarus National Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Games, said it had intervened.
The Belarus National Olympic Committee has been led for more than 25 years by authoritarian state president Alexander Lukashenko and his son, Viktor.
A spokeswoman 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.
Kozin reported from Moscow.
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