The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has suspended the head of Belarus's Ice Hockey Federation for five years, saying he used his post to intimidate Belarusian athletes who did not support authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government.
In a statement on September 8, the IIHF said that the decision was made after a 10-month investigation by the IIHF disciplinary board, which found Dzmitry Baskau "to be in violation of the IIHF Code of Conduct," as well as having violated Article 5 of the Olympic Charter for politicizing sport.
"The board cited sufficient evidence that [Baskau] has tried to directly influence others to support the Belarus government and has threatened and discriminated Belarusian athletes because of their political opinion," the statement said.
"The board also determined that [Baskau] abused his position as a representative of ice hockey in order to support the current president of Belarus," Lukashenka, it added.
The ban applies to all national and international ice-hockey activities for five years, the IIHF said.
Baskau who is known as a close ally of Lukashenka, has also been implicated in the killing of an anti-Lukashenka protester, Raman Bandarenka, in November 2020.
The IIHF decision comes as Lukashenka's regime continues a crackdown on the opposition, independent journalists, and rights defenders that started after a disputed August 2020 presidential election that awarded Lukashenka a sixth term, sparking an unprecedented wave of protests.
Several Belarusian athletes have been handed jail terms of 10 to 15 days in recent months for their open support of the protests demanding Lukashenka's resignation. Several other prominent Belarusian athletes have defected to other countries over the situation inside the former Soviet republic.
In January, nearly 350 Belarusian athletes and other members of the sports community signed an open letter calling for the presidential election to be annulled and for all "political prisoners" and those detained during mass demonstrations that followed to be released.
Thousands of protesters in Belarus, including dozens of journalists covering the protests, have been detained. Some have been handed prison terms and hundreds beaten by security officials while in detention and on the streets.
Several protesters have been killed in the violence, and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used by security officials against some detainees.