Two Belarus coaches allegedly involved in attempting to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to return home have had their accreditation rescinded and been asked to leave the Olympic village.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Friday it had taken the action against Artur Shumak and Yuri Moisevich, who it says also face IOC disciplinary proceedings launched two days ago.
The committee said the pair had left the village and “will be offered an opportunity to be heard”.
Tsimanouskaya arrived in Warsaw on Wednesday evening after she refused her coaches’ alleged instruction to return to her homeland. She sought Japanese police protection and was offered a humanitarian visa by Polish authorities.
Now safely in Poland, she has spoken out about her dramatic experience, telling Belarusians “not to be afraid and, if they’re under pressure, speak out”. Tsimanouskaya said she had decided not to return to Belarus after her grandmother told her by telephone that she had been slammed on television as a traitor and called “mentally ill” for criticising her coaches.
The 24-year-old athlete’s case could further isolate Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who is under western sanctions after a crackdown on opponents since last year.
The sprinter caused a furore on Sunday when she said coaches angry at her criticism over sporting issues had ordered her to pack and go to the airport before she even competed in Tokyo.
She refused to board a flight home and sought police protection at Japan’s Haneda airport, where she used Google Translate to show Japanese officials a plea for help. She then stayed at the Polish embassy for two nights before flying to Warsaw via Vienna.
The Belarus National Olympic Committee at the time had said coaches withdrew Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her emotional and psychological state.
Tsimanouskaya did not rule out a future return to Belarus, but said on Thursday she would only go “when it will be safe for me there”. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week, she said she felt she would be punished if she returned to Minsk after criticising Belarussian team officials for failing to secure doping tests for members of a Belarusian relay team.
The saga has shown how Belarus’ crackdown has made any criticism of the country’s officials extremely dangerous, even if limited to professional questions about sport.
The Belarus Olympic team in Tokyo was not immediately available for comment on Friday.