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Two Belarus team coaches removed from Olympics over attempt to send sprinter home

Written by on 06/08/2021

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it has removed two Belarusian team coaches from the Games, four days after they were involved in trying to send sprinter Krystina Tsimanouskaya back to Belarus.

The organisation said it had cancelled and removed the credentials of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich.

“The two coaches were requested to leave the Olympic Village immediately and have done so,” the IOC said.

Krystina Tsimanouskaya
Image: Tsimanouskaya holds a T-Shirt which says ‘I just want to run’

It was done as an interim measure during a formal investigation “in the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes”, the Olympic body said.

Shimak and Maisevich continued to have contact with Belarusian athletes since Sunday after the IOC linked them to taking Tsimanouskaya in a car to the airport to put her on a plane to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya had criticised team coaches on social media and is now in Poland after being granted a humanitarian visa.

In a news conference in Warsaw the 24-year-old claimed her grandmother had told her by phone there were TV reports that she was mentally ill, and said it was best for her to not return.

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Tsimanouskaya, who had already competed in the 100 metres in Japan, thanked people who supported her during the tense stand-off.

Krystina Tsimanouskaya
Image: Krystina Tsimanouskaya competed in the 100m in Tokyo

“It was the whole world, and these people make me much stronger,” she said.

She also had a message for her fellow Belarus citizens, saying: “I want to tell all Belarusians not to be afraid and if they’re under pressure, speak out.”

The IOC said Shimak and Maisevich “will be offered an opportunity to be heard” by its disciplinary commission investigating the case.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the West of waging a hybrid war against the country. Pic: AP
Image: Alexander Lukashenko is on his sixth president term. Pic: AP

It was unclear if the men have stayed in Japan or will leave for Belarus, an authoritarian former Soviet republic that relentlessly pursues its critics.

Belarus has been in turmoil for a year since Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term after a state election widely viewed as rigged in his favour.

Mr Lukashenko also led the Belarusian Olympic committee since the 1990s until this year. His son, Viktor, was elected to replace him.

The IOC banned both Lukashenkos from attending the Tokyo Olympics after investigating complaints from athletes they faced reprisals and intimidation in a security crackdown after the election.

Alexander Lukashenko was unable to attend the 2012 London Olympics because of a European Union visa ban imposed during a previous crackdown that followed a disputed election.

 Sky News

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