Belarus Olympian offered Polish visa after refusing to be sent home

2 August 2021, 09:50 | Updated: 2 August 2021, 12:59

The sprinter claimed she was taken to the airport against her will.
The sprinter claimed she was taken to the airport against her will. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Belarus Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been offered a Polish visa after refusing to be sent home by her team.

Deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz first said on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya had been offered a "humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses".

The Polish Foreign Ministry later confirmed that Poland had granted the visa to Tsimanouskaya.

The Czech Republic had previously said that they were ready to offer her a visa too, with France's European affairs minister saying it would be an "honour" if Europe were to grant political asylum.

It comes after the sportswoman was reported to be "safe and secure" in an airport hotel, under the protection of Japanese authorities.

In a statement released by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), Tsimanouskaya said she was in a police station early on 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."

Read more: Belarus accused of trying to fly athlete home after she criticised coaches

The sprinter said she was taken to Haneda airport against her will, having publicly complained about the national coach.

She had been entered into the 4x400 relay despite never racing in the event.

Tsimanouskaya said in a filmed message on social media that she had been pressured by Belarus team officials, and had to ask the IOC for help.

"I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent," she said.

Belarus said the 24-year-old was removed from the team because of her "emotional and psychological state".

A Japanese government spokesman, Katsunobu Kato, told reporters that Japan was cooperating with other organisations "to take appropriate measures".

The foreign ministry said Japan is working with the IOC and the Tokyo Olympics organisers.

It is the latest in controversial events for Belarus, after an ongoing dispute about the diversion of a Ryanair passenger flight, which saw journalist Roman Protasevich arrested when the flight was grounded in Minsk.