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Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya seeks asylum at Tokyo Olympics

Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya seeks asylum at Tokyo Olympics
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus competes in a women's 100-meter heat at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday. Photo by Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA-EFE

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus is seeking asylum in Poland and was granted a humanitarian visa by the eastern European nation on Monday after she says team officials tried to force her to return to her home country.

Tsimanouskaya went to the Polish Embassy in Tokyo and said she feared arrest if she was returned to Belarus. She complained and criticized Belarusian organizers after she was removed from competition at the Tokyo Olympics and ordered to return home.

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Polish officials said later Monday that they would help Tsimanouskaya.

"Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her continue her sporting career," Polish Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Marcin Przydacz said, according to CNN. "[Poland] always stands for solidarity."

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Tsimanouskaya, 24, has been under the protection of Japanese authorities and is planning to fly to Warsaw in the coming days.

The pivot to Poland occurred after she complained via social media about her treatment by the Belarusian Olympic committee.

Tsimanouskaya competed in a qualifying heat for the women's 100-meter dash and was also set to compete in the 200-meter race when she said team officials tried to force her out of Tokyo without her consent.

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She said the team also abruptly tried to get her to compete in the women's 4x400 relay after drug testing issues kept some members of the team out of the event.

"They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission," Tsimanouskaya said in a Facebook video posted by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation.

The International Olympic Committee acknowledged the ordeal in a statement late Sunday.

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"The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have spoken to Krystsina Tsymanouskaya directly tonight," the organization tweeted. "She is with the authorities at Haneda airport and is currently accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020. She has told us that she feels safe.

"The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya and the authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days."

Belarus has an autocratic government and was widely criticized in May for diverting a flight to arrest a dissident journalist. It was a move that also drew punishment from the European Union and sanctions from the United States.

Tsimanouskaya's husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, left Belarus Sunday night for Ukraine.

"I didn't think it would get this serious," he told Sky News in Kiev. "I made the decision to leave without thinking twice."

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Belarus journalist Hanna Liubakova tweeted that Tsimanouskaya did not leave the Olympics because of any personal trauma, which had been suggested by Belarus team officials.

"A conversation between Tsymanouskaya, Yuri Maisevich, the head coach of the national team and another member of the delegation, was leaked," Liubakova said in the tweet.

"She was brought to tears by their threats. Also, the conversation proves that she was not forced to leave the Olympics because of any trauma."

Tokyo Olympics: Moments from athletics

The United States' Allyson Felix sprints around the track in the women's 4x400-meter relay final, where the United States took gold with a time of 3:16.85 while Poland took silver with a time of 3:20.53 and Jamaica taking bronze with a time of 3:21.24. Five-time Olympian Felix, is now the most decorated woman to ever compete in track at the Games with 11 total medals. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

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