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IOC withdraws accreditations to Belarusian coaches in case of athlete Tsimanuskaya

IOC withdraws accreditations to Belarusian coaches in case of athlete Tsimanuskaya

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) withdrew the accreditations of two Belarusian coaches and asked them to leave the Olympic Village for their alleged attempt to force the athlete Kristina Tsimanuskaya to return to her country, the sports entity reported on Friday.

The IOC indicated that it withdrew the credentials of Belarusian coaches Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich and that they both left the Olympic Village.

The IOC said this week that the two coaches were under investigation into their possible role in the case of sprinter Tsimanuskaya, 24, who requested protection to avoid being returned to Belarus.

She said she feared for her life should she be forced to return to her country, which has been experiencing severe repression against dissidents since last year’s disputed elections that left strongman Alexander Lukashenko in power.

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Tsimanuskaya is among more than 2,000 Belarusian athletes who signed an open letter calling for new elections and the release of political prisoners.

But her troubles in Tokyo began after posting criticism of her coaches on Instagram for including her in a competition without informing her beforehand.

The athlete moved to Poland on Wednesday, which gave her a humanitarian visa.

The IOC said the two coaches “will have a chance to be heard” but withdrew their credentials “in the interest of the well-being of the athletes” from Belarus who are still in Tokyo.

– Transnational repression –

The dispute arose after Tsimanuskaya, who was registered in the 100m and 200m races, claimed that she was included in the 4x400m relays without consulting her.

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She said she was “surprised that the situation turned into a political scandal because it started as a sporting issue.”

“I just want to continue my sports career,” Tsimanuskaya declared after arriving in Poland.

The alleged attempt to return her to Belarus generated international condemnations. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, accused Minsk of “another act of transnational repression.”

In power since 1994, Lukashenko generated international condemnation in May when he sent a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania to detain a dissident on board.

Belarus has had problems with the IOC since last year, and Lukashenko and his son Viktor were banned from Olympic events for harassing athletes for their political views.

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Shortly before the Tokyo Games, Lukashenko warned Belarusian sports authorities and athletes that he expected results in the fair.

Think about it before you go. If they return with nothing, better not come back at all, “he declared then.

Tsimanuskaya’s departure came after Ukrainian police revealed that Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov, whose NGO supports his compatriots to flee their country, was found hanged in a Kiev park.

Police said they opened an investigation for possible murder, while activists accused the Minsk authorities of carrying out “an operation (…) to liquidate a Belarusian who presented a real danger to the regime.”

Arriving in Warsaw, Tsimanuskaya urged “Belarusians to stop being afraid and speak out if they feel any pressure.” (AFP)

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