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IOC boots two Belarusian coaches from Tokyo for allegedly trying to send outspoken sprinter back to Belarus

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One of the biggest political stories of the Olympics has resulted in the removal of two Belarusian coaches from Tokyo.

The IOC announced Thursday that it has set up a disciplinary commission for the case of Belarus' Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and had removed coaches Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich from the Olympic village as a provisional measure.

The two coaches reportedly agreed to leave the village without incident, and will be given an opportunity to defend themselves.

The two coaches' removal comes after they allegedly played a part in the politically motivated removal of Tsimanouskaya from the Olympics, a story that has engulfed coverage of Belarus' coverage in Tokyo and provided another example of the country's fraught political situation under president Alexander Lukashenko.

What's happening with Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and Belarus

The drama surrounding Tsimanouskaya began on July 27 when she posted a video to her Instagram criticizing the "negligence" of team officials after she had been entered in the 4x400-meter relay, an event she had never participated in.

Tsimanouskaya, who has only competed in events 200 meters or shorter internationally, said she had been entered in the relay because some of the country's athletes were declared ineligible to compete in Tokyo because they had not undergone a sufficient number of doping tests.

Five days later, Tsimanouskaya said she was met by her coaching staff in her room and told to pack, then driven to Tokyo's Haneda Airport against her wishes. She was supposed to fly back to Belarus, but refused and instead posted a video to Instagram requesting protection from Japanese authorities.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian Olympic Committee released a statement that its coaches decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors' advice over her "emotional, psychological state".

Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is escorted by police officers at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan August 1, 2021.  REUTERS/Issei Kato
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sought protection from Japenese authorities after being transported to Tokyo's Haneda airport. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

At this point, it's worth noting that Lukashenko has a reputation as "Europe's last dictator." His elections are widely seen as fraudulent. The leader of one group opposing him was found hanged earlier this week. Another vocal opponent was arrested earlier this year after his plane was forced to land after entering Belarusian air space. Past Belarusian athletes have received jail time for speaking against him. And his son Viktor is the head of Belarus' Olympic Committee, which Tsimanouskaya basically called incompetent on her Instagram account.

Tsimanouskaya claims she was told by team officials that the decision to remove her from the Olympics came from above their pay grade and that additional punishment awaited once she was back in their home country. Her own family reportedly told her she would be sent to a psychiatric facility if she returned, while one activist group said her life would be in serious danger.

After her appeals, Tsimanouskaya was eventually taken into protective custody by Tokyo police and later transmitted to the Polish embassy, where she was granted a humanitarian visa. She has since flown from Tokyo to Vienna, then Warsaw. Her husband also fled Belarus and was granted a visa to Poland this week, but she has expressed concerns about her parents who remain in the country.

Anti-Olympics protest slideshow embed
Anti-Olympics protest slideshow embed

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