IOC expels two Belarusian coaches from Olympics following Tsimanouskaya debacle
The International Olympic Committee said it had withdrawn the accreditations of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich.
Two Belarusian coaches have been stripped of their Tokyo Olympics credentials over an alleged attempt to force a sprinter to return home, an incident which has drawn international condemnation.
The International Olympic Committee said on Friday it had withdrawn Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich’s accreditations and left the Olympic Village.
The agency said this week it was investigating the couple’s role in the case of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought protection at a Tokyo airport to avoid being boarded on a return plane.
She said she fears for her life if she is returned to Belarus, which has been rocked by political upheaval and a crackdown on dissent after contested elections that brought strongman Alexander Lukashenko back to power last year. .
Tsimanouskaya is one of more than 2,000 Belarusian sports figures who signed an open letter calling for new elections and the release of political prisoners.
But her problems in Tokyo came after she posted on her Instagram, criticizing her coaches for signing her up for a race without notifying him first.
The IOC said the two coaches “will be given the opportunity to be heard” but that the measures against them have been taken “in the interest of the welfare of the athletes” from Belarus who are still in Tokyo.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, arrived in Warsaw on Wednesday after being granted a humanitarian visa, saying she was “happy to be safe”.
READ MORE: Belarusian athlete changes flights from Tokyo due to safety concerns
An IOC disciplinary commission was set up in the case of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to clarify the circumstances of the incident and the roles played by coaches Mr. Artur Shimak and Mr. Yury Maisevich. # Tokyo2020 #Olympic Games / 1
– IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) August 5, 2021
The row erupted after Tsimanouskaya, who was registered in the 100 and 200m, complained that he had been entered in the 4x400m relay without being consulted.
She said she was “surprised that the situation is becoming such a political scandal because it started out as a sports issue”, adding that she “was not thinking of political asylum” in EU member Poland.
“I just want to continue my sports career,” Tsimanouskaya said.
The alleged attempt to return Tsimanouskaya to Belarus has drawn condemnation, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accusing Minsk of “another act of transnational repression”.
In power since 1994, Lukashenko sparked international outrage in May by sending a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania to arrest a dissident on board.
Belarus has also been in the IOC’s sights since last year.
Lukashenko and his son Viktor were banned from Olympic events for targeting athletes because of their political views.
Shortly before the Tokyo Games, Lukashenko warned sports officials and athletes that he expected results in Japan.
“Think about it before you go,” he said. “If you come back with nothing, you better not come back at all.”
Activist found hanged in Kiev
The Olympic saga came as Ukrainian police said missing Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov, whose NGO is helping his compatriots flee the country, was found hanged in a park in Kiev.
Police said they had opened a murder investigation and would pursue all leads, including “murder disguised as suicide”, while activists accused authorities of “an operation … to liquidate an Belarusian who presented a real danger to the regime “.
Upon his arrival in Warsaw, Tsimanouskaya urged his compatriots “Belarusians to stop being afraid and to speak out if they feel any pressure”.
READ MORE: Arrest of Belarusian opposition figure in hijacked flight sparks criticism