Belarusian sprinter given Polish visa after refusing to board flight home

A Belarusian Olympic athlete who refused to board a flight home from Tokyo after criticizing team officials has been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya entered the Polish Embassy in Tokyo on Monday and is set to fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, Alexander Opeikin of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund, an association that supports athletes who are jailed or prosecuted for political beliefs, wrote on the Telegram messaging service.

“She is OK. She’s a little bit disappointed because she wanted to continue in the Olympic Games,” Opeikin told the New York Times.

Tsimanouskaya “has received a humanitarian visa,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter, adding that his country “will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career.”

The sprinter was meant to compete in the 200-meter heats on Monday but was removed from the competition after criticizing her coaches on Instagram, saying they had failed to secure the necessary doping tests for her fellow athletes and entered her into the 4x400m relay “behind [her] back.”

The chairman of the Belarus Olympic Committee is the son of leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has cracked down on dissenters following last year’s presidential election, which he claims to have won but which has been widely condemned as fraudulent.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the election, said on Twitter she was “grateful” to the International Olympic Committee for its “quick reaction.”



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