TOKYO (AP) — A Belarus track sprinter alleged her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan in a dispute that led to a standoff Sunday evening at Tokyo’s main airport.
An activist group supporting Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was in danger in Belarus and would seek asylum with the Austrian embassy in Tokyo.
Tsimanouskaya said in a filmed message distributed on social media she was pressured by Belarus team officials and asked the International Olympic Committee for help.
“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” the 24-year-old runner said.
Tsimanouskaya, who is due to run in the Olympic 200-meter heats Monday, criticized Belarus team officials on her Instagram account. She said she’d been put in the 4x400 relay despite never racing the event.
The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation said government supporters targeted the athlete, and Tsimanouskaya contacted the group for help to avoid what she feared was a forced deportation to Minsk.
“The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” Alexander Opeikin, a spokesman for the BSSF, told The Associated Press in an interview.
Tsimanouskaya summoned Japanese police at Haneda Airport and did not board a flight departing for Istanbul. Foreign ministry officials arrived later at the airport, Opeikin said.
In a statement released by the BSSF, Tsimanouskaya said she was in a police station early Monday morning.
“I explained the situation to a police officer of how I was taken from the Olympic Village,” she said. “Now I am in a secure situation and am figuring out the question of where I will spend the night.
The IOC, which has been in dispute with the Belarus National Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Games, said it had intervened.
“The IOC … is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC for clarification,” the Olympics said in a statement.