Former Belarusian Olympic coach given five-year ban for ‘abuse of power’ in treatment of Kristina Timanovskaya at Tokyo Games

The former head coach of the Belarusian Olympic team has been banned for five years following his behavior towards sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya at the Tokyo Games three years ago.

Yuri Moisevich was removed from the Olympic Village and his accreditation was canceled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the aftermath of a dispute with Timanovskaya, during which the athlete said that she had been threatened, removed from the team, and forced on a flight back to Belarus after criticizing the sporting authorities.

Timanovskaya had been set to compete in the 200 meters in Tokyo but was pulled from the event after denouncing team officials on social media for entering her in the 4x400-meter relay, an event in which she had not previously competed.

A disciplinary tribunal found that Moisevich had breached World Athletics’ integrity code of conduct and that his actions were “a clear affront to the Athlete’s dignity and an abuse of … power,” the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) said on Tuesday.

The tribunal also judged that the 63-year-old Moisevich had “contravened the Integrity Standard for ‘Honesty’” by “providing false or inaccurate information in the course of events leading up to the Athlete’s departure from the Olympic Village,” according to the AIU.

Timanovskaya competes in the 200-meter heats at last year's world championships. - Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters
Timanovskaya competes in the 200-meter heats at last year's world championships. - Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters

Moisevich retired in May last year but the five-year ban immediately prevents him from participating in any events sanctioned by global governing body World Athletics.

During the Tokyo Olympics, Timanovskaya feared that she would be arrested in Belarus for her comments, and thus refused to get on a flight back home. Instead, she fled to Poland and was granted a visa on humanitarian grounds.

At the time, the Belarusian National Olympic Committee (NOC) said that Timanovskaya was withdrawn from the Games due to her “emotional and psychological state,” but the 27-year-old denied this, saying that she had “no health problems, no traumas, no mental issues.”

She now competes for Poland at international athletics events, including last year’s world championships in Budapest.

Speaking to CNN after she was forced to leave the last Olympics in Tokyo, Timanovskaya said that she was “upset” to have been denied the chance to compete.

“I was ready for the Games, especially for the 200 meters,” she added. “They took away my dream of performing at the Olympics. They took this chance away from me.”

CNN has contacted the Belarusian NOC for further comment on Moisevich’s ban.

While Timanovskaya did not make any overtly political comments in Tokyo, her plight heightened fears of the safety of those who speak out against Belarusian officials.

She recorded part of her conversations with Moisevich, which the AIU said was used as evidence during the hearing.

“This ruling represents a significant success for the rights of athletes,” AIU chair David Howman said in a press release on Tuesday.

He added, “The dignity of all athletes is of paramount importance and every attempt must be made to guarantee the environment in which they compete is free of harassment, abuse and bad faith dealings of any kind.”

An IOC spokesperson told CNN that it “fully supported” the disciplinary procedure undertaken by the AIU.

CNN’s Helen Regan, Jennifer Hauser, Seb Shukla, Taylor Barnes and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to reporting.

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