IOC expels 2 Belarus coaches over athlete removal

Belarusian Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya addresses a press conference on Aug 5, 2021 in Warsaw, one day after her arrival in Poland. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI / AFP)

TOKYO – Two Belarus coaches who cut short sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya's Tokyo Games have had their accreditation revoked and were removed from the athletes village, the IOC said on Friday.

The IOC has come under scrutiny for failing to prevent the athlete being removed from the Games for expressing her views about coaching staff

Athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich and team official Artur Shumak were asked to leave the Olympic village, the International Olympic Committee said, days after they ordered Tsimanouskaya pack her bags and go to the airport.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters in Warsaw on Thursday, Tsimanouskaya said the two officials had told her the order to send her home came from "high up" in Belarus.

In a saga reminiscent of Cold War sporting defections, Tsimanouskaya caused a furore on Sunday when refused to board a flight home and sought protection from Japanese police before seeking asylum in Poland, where she was reunited with her husband on Thursday.

The 24-year-old athlete's case threatens to further isolate Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is under Western sanctions.

"We are not the ones who made the decision, we are only executing it," Tsimanouskaya said the two officials told her. "You have 40 minutes. You have to pack your things and go to the airport."

Lukashenko's spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment after Tsimanouskaya's interview.

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The two coaches would return to Minsk immediately, the Belarus Olympic committee said in a statement on Friday, adding that the coaches could appeal the decision and they hoped to continue a dialogue with the IOC.

IOC president Thomas Bach called Tsimanouskaya's case "deplorable" on Friday and said the disciplinary commission would continue.

"We are happy Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is safe in Poland," Bach said.

Tsimanouskaya said she decided to defect as she was being driven to a Tokyo airport because her grandmother told her that it was not safe to return home to Belarus.

She said she would testify in a disciplinary commission on Friday and urged the IOC to defend her and other athletes.

"I hope that the International Olympic Committee will make the right decision and will defend the athlete and defend me," she said.

The IOC has come under scrutiny for failing to prevent the athlete being removed from the Games for expressing her views about coaching staff.

In the past, the Olympics organising body has acted swiftly to suspend athletes, officials or team members – even those with provisionally pending investigations – from the Olympics.

It took four days in the case of the Belarus coaches before they were ejected from the Games.

"In the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus who are still in Tokyo, and as a provisional measure, the IOC cancelled and removed last night the accreditations of the two coaches," the IOC said on Friday.

"They will be offered an opportunity to be heard."