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Two Belarusian Coaches Stripped Of Accreditation Over Alleged Attempt To Send Sprinter Home

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Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who flew to Warsaw under Polish diplomatic protection, holds up a T-shirt after speaking with reporters upon her arrival in the city on August 5.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches over their alleged attempt to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to return home to Belarus from the Tokyo Olympics.

The IOC took the step on August 6 "in the interest of the well-being of the athletes...of Belarus who are still in Tokyo," a statement on Twitter said.

The IOC said the two coaches, identified as Artur Shumak and Yury Maisevich, were asked to leave the Olympic Village immediately and “have done so.”

An IOC disciplinary commission has been set up to clarify the circumstances of Tsimanouskaya’s case and the roles played by Shumak and Maisevich, the IOC said.

“They will be offered an opportunity to be heard,” the IOC statement said.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Tsimanouskaya’s alleged treatment was "unjust" and "not acceptable."

Belarusian Olympic officials Artur Shumak (left) and Yury Maisevich wait at Haneda airport to board a flight home from Tokyo on August 6.
Belarusian Olympic officials Artur Shumak (left) and Yury Maisevich wait at Haneda airport to board a flight home from Tokyo on August 6.

IOC President Thomas Bach described the incident as "deplorable" and said "the disciplinary procedure is not over" with the expulsion of the coaches.

Belarus's national Olympic committee wrote on Telegram on August 5 that it reserves the right to appeal the IOC decision and pledged to protect Belarusian athletes and coaches from "any form of discrimination."

Tsimanouskaya, who is now in Warsaw, said she refused her coaches' instruction to return to her homeland, fearing retribution for statements she made on social media criticizing their decisions.

'You Did A Stupid Thing': Belarusian Athletics Officials Tell Sprinter To Leave Olympics
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The 24-year-old arrived in Warsaw late on August 4 under Polish diplomatic protection ahead of an expected asylum request.

She was reunited with her husband, Arsen Zdanevich, on the same day, according to Warsaw-based Belarusian opposition politician Paval Latushko, Reuters reported. Poland has granted the pair humanitarian visas and has pledged to ensure their safety.

Tsimanouskaya told a news conference after her arrival in Warsaw that she was grateful to Poland for its help but she still hoped to return to "free" Belarus one day.

"I will be ready to return to Belarus once it is safe for me to do so," she said.

"I did not betray it; it is my homeland."

Tsimanouskaya said she had never met Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has clamped down on the country since a disputed election one year ago, and had nothing to say about him.

But she said "terrible" things have been happening in Belarus.

As an athlete, however, she said she wanted to focus on the Olympics and not get distracted.

Tsimanouskaya accused Belarusian officials of trying to force her to fly home from Tokyo before she was done competing. She said they had "made it clear that, upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment," the Associated Press quoted her as saying after interviewing her before she left Japan.

In Warsaw, she said her grandmother had advised her not to return to Belarus because negative media reports were being aired about her there after her refusal to leave Tokyo.

Tsimanouskaya said on August 5 that she now wants to help Belarusians who are in similar situations.

Tsimanouskaya's plight became a major story from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and refocused international attention on repression in Belarus since protests erupted when Lukashenka claimed victory for a sixth presidential term.

Lukashenka's son Viktar took over leadership of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee recently from his father in a move that the IOC did not recognize.

Other Belarusian athletes, including a former Olympic medalist decathlete and his wife, have reportedly fled life in Belarus since Tsimanouskaya's ordeal began and Ukraine announced a murder investigation when an exiled Lukashenka critic was found dead this week in Kyiv.

Belarus Sent Hit Squads To Kill Lukashenka Critics, Says Man Who Found Activist's Body In Kyiv
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With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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