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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Poland ready to offer protection to Belarusian Olympic sprinter: deputy FM

02.08.2021 11:50
A Polish deputy foreign minister has said his country is ready to offer protection to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who refused to fly home early from the Tokyo Olympics after criticising her coaches.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya.Photo: EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Writing on Twitter, Marcin Przydacz said on Sunday that "Poland is ready to help Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete ordered by the Lukashenko regime to return from the Olympic Games to Minsk."

"She was offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses," Przydacz added.

Tsimanouskaya was due to compete in the women's 200m event on Monday. However, after she publicly complained about being entered into another race at short notice, she was forced to pack before being taken to the airport against her will.

The Belarusian sprinter refused to board the plane and asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for help. She explained on social media she had been "put under pressure" by team officials to return home.

"They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission," the sprinter said, adding: "this is why I am asking the IOC to intervene."

Japanese police took Tsimanouskaya into their care, first at the airport station and then at an undisclosed, protected location.

In a later message, the IOC said it had spoken to Tsimanouskaya and "she has told us she feels safe." The sprinter had earlier said she was afraid of returning to Belarus as she may face prison there.

Tsimanouskaya supported by Tsikhanouskaya

Tsimanouskaya received support from Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, one of the leading figures of the Belarusian opposition and former presidential candidate.

Tsikhanouskaya also thanked the IOC "for the quick reaction to the situation." She added that Tsymanouskaya "has a right to international protection and to continue participation in the Olympics."

Meanwhile, state media in Belarus criticised the sprinter, and the country's Olympic Committee, headed by Alexander Lukashenka's son Viktor, said she had been taken off the team following consultation with doctors, because of her "emotional and physical condition."

Tsimanouskaya claims she has not been examined by medics.

The controversy erupted when the runner was asked to take part in the 400m relay event, in addition to the 100m and 200m races, because some teammates were found ineligible to compete, having failed to undergo enough drugs tests prior to the Olympics.

Tsimanouskaya publicly blamed the Belarusian sports officials for this, prompting a fierce response from the authorities.

The 24-year-old has competed at world and European championships and won the women’s 200m at the 2019 Universiade in Naples.

Last year, when the Belarusian opposition protested after the country's disputed presidential election, she condemned violence and expressed support for free speech.

(pm/gs)

Source: IAR