TOKYO — After complaining on social media about unfair treatment by her national Olympic committee, track athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus said she was being forced to board a flight home to her country and refused.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, had previously competed in the women’s 100-meter dash qualifying heats and was scheduled to also run the 200. Her gripes, she told Reuters, were that she was placed in the women’s 4x400 relay without prior knowledge.
At Haneda Airport in Tokyo, she sought the protection of local police and told Reuters she planned to file for asylum to escape the former Soviet-bloc country.
Here is the latest on the situation involving Tsimanouskaya, including the International Olympic Committee’s response and her whereabouts.
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‘Forcibly take me out of the country’
Tsimanouskaya said that Belarusian officials were forcing her to leave Japan prior to her 200 heat because of "the fact I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches."
The reason Tsimanouskaya had to run the 4x400, she said, was because of drug testing issues involving her teammates who did not make the trip to Tokyo. Coaches arrived at her room in the Olympic Village Sunday night and told her to pack up before taking her to the airport.
"I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent," she said.
IOC responds to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya's request
After Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight bound for Istanbul, Turkey, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers spoke with her directly — after the athlete asked the organizations to get involved in her case.
"She is with the authorities at Haneda airport and is currently accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020. She has told us that she feels safe," the IOC tweeted overnight. “The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya and authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days.”
Japan says Krystsina Tsimanouskaya safe
As Japanese authorities seek to ascertain Tsimanouskaya’s intentions, the host country’s chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, said Monday at a news conference that the sprinter is safe.
In a statement released through the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), which supports athletes speaking out, Tsimanouskaya said Monday morning she was at a police station in Japan and "secure."
"I explained the situation to a police officer of how I was taken from the Olympic Village," the statement said. "Now I am in a secure situation and am figuring out the question of where I will spend the night."
Government supporters began targeting Tsimanouskaya online, BSSF spokesman Alexander Opeikin told the Associated Press.
"The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal her life would be in danger in Belarus," Opeikin told the AP.
Activists say Krystsina Tsimanouskaya seeking Polish asylum, visa
Opeikin told the AP that Tsimanouskaya would ask for asylum at the Austrian embassy. Additionally, Reuters reported she may make a similar request to Germany. Then later Monday the AP reported she was at the Polish embassy in Tokyo and seeking a visa that would allow her to request political asylum.
The New York Times reported from Japan that Tsimanouskaya accepted the Polish asylum offer. Poland, which borders Belarus to the west, has emerged as a haven for those seeking to escape the political crackdown in the country.
Belarus president’s son heads NOC
Alexander Lukashenko has been president of Belarus since 1994. His most recent election victory in 2020 came under accusations of rigging. Former U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared the election "not free or fair."
Large demonstrations against Lukashenko mobilized prior to the 2020 election and intensified after the vote tally.
Lukashenko’s eldest son, Viktor, is the president of the Belarus national Olympic committee.
In May, an opposition journalist was arrested after his flight was forced to land in the capital city of Minsk. He and his girlfriend, detained along with him, have since been moved to house arrest.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.
Contributing: Olivia Reiner, USA TODAY Network
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Belarus' Krystsina Tsimanouskaya: What to know about Olympics saga