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Olympics officials strip Belarus coaches in Tokyo for roles in sprinter who defected to Poland

Aug. 6 (UPI) — Olympic officials said Friday that they have revoked credentials for two Belarusian running coaches and asked them to leave the Olympic Village in Tokyo as they’re investigated for supposedly trying to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to return home.

The International Olympic Committee announced that it’s stripped the credentials of coaches Artur Shumak and Yuri Moisevichin in connection with Tsimanouskaya’s case.

Early this week, Tsimanouskaya sought and received asylum in Poland after she said Belarus officials tried to put her on a plane home. She feared danger in her home country over public criticisms about the Belarus Olympic Committee. She left Tokyo on Wednesday.

Friday, the IOC said that a disciplinary commission has been established to clarify the circumstances. In the interim, they asked the coaches to leave.

“In the interest of the well-being of the athletes of the [National Olympic Committee] of Belarus who are still in Tokyo and as a provisional measure, the IOC canceled and removed last night the accreditation of the two coaches,” the IOC wrote in a tweet Friday.

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“The two coaches were requested to leave the Olympic Village immediately and have done so. They will be offered an opportunity to be heard.”

Tsimanouskaya said her grandmother urged her not to return to Belarus following news reports on state television concerning her mental state.

Previously, Tsimanouskaya said she was allowed to compete in the women’s 100-meter race and was supposed to compete in a 200-meter heat when Belarus officials ordered her home. She also said they tried to get her to compete in an event she hadn’t trained for, due to doping involving some members of the team.

The Belarus Olympic Committee said Tsimanouskaya was withdrawn from competition due to her “emotional and psychological state.”

The 24-year-old sprinter last weekend sought asylum in Poland and received a humanitarian visa. At a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday, she said she felt deprived of an opportunity to compete in her best event, the 200-meter dash, because of the controversy.

“Those were five long years of preparation,” Tsimanouskaya said, according to CNN. “I had to go through a lot … but still I hope that these were not my last Olympic Games. I hope for at least two more.”

At the conference, she displayed a shirt that read, “I just want to run.”

Belarus and the autocratic regime of President Alexander Lukashenko have received widespread criticism in recent months over various incidents, including diverting a commercial flight in May to arrest a dissident journalist. Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov was found dead in Ukraine earlier this week in what some believe was a murder intended to silence dissent.

Belarus, a territory of the former Soviet Union, achieved its independence from Moscow in 1991 and has a population of more than 9 million.

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