Two Belarusian coaches have been stripped of their accreditation and expelled from the Olympic Village in Tokyo as organizers continue to investigate the scandal surrounding sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Friday that Belarusian athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich and team official Artur Shumak had both been told to leave the athletes’ village.
The organization said it was taking the step “in the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes of the NOC [National Olympic Committee] of Belarus who are still in Tokyo and as a provisional measure…
“The two coaches were requested to leave the Olympic Village immediately and have done so. They will be offered an opportunity to be heard,” it added.
According to the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, the pair will return to Minsk and appeal the decision while cooperating with the IOC.
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The move comes after the IOC set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the case of Timanovskaya, 24, who said Belarusian officials tried to force her to fly home after she criticized them on social media.
The sprinter said she had been told to pack her bags after complaining about her unexpected inclusion in the 4x400m relay, when a number of her teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.
Having initially sought refuge with police at a Tokyo airport at the weekend, Timanovskaya was then offered a humanitarian visa by Poland.
She arrived in Warsaw this week and has said she fears being jailed should she return to her homeland.
Her husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, fled Belarus and has reportedly been reunited with his wife in Poland.
Timanovskaya told Reuters that Moisevich and Shumak had been ordered from “high up” to withdraw her from the Games, where she had been due to compete in the 200m on Monday.
Even though the athlete has said she was not making a political point, her case has widely been couched in the broader context of a crackdown from longtime Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on dissent.
Lukashenko, who was reelected last year amid opposition protests, was banned from attending this summer’s Games by the IOC because Belarusian athletes have not been “appropriately protected from political discrimination,” according to the organization.
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The IOC has also refused to recognize the election of Lukashenko’s son, Viktor, as the president of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee.
“We are happy that Kristina Timanovskaya is safe in Poland,” said IOC president Thomas Bach this week.