TOKYO (AP) – Two Belarusian team coaches have been pulled from the Olympics, four days after trying to send sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya back to their country.
The International Olympic Committee announced on Friday that it had canceled and withdrawn the credentials of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich.
âBoth coaches were asked to leave the Olympic Village immediately and did so,â said the IOC.
This was done on a provisional basis during a formal investigation “in the interest of the well-being of the athletes,” said the Olympic body.
Shimak and Maisevich have continued to have contact with Belarusian athletes since Sunday after the IOC linked them to the idea of ââtaking Tsimanouskaya by car to the airport to put her on a plane to Belarus.
Tsimanouskaya had criticized the team coaches on social media and is now in Poland on a humanitarian visa.
The IOC said Shimak and Maisevich âwill be offered the opportunity to be heardâ by its disciplinary commission investigating the case.
The Belarusian Olympic committee said the two would return to Minsk soon and “they reserve the right to appeal the decision.”
Belarus has been in turmoil for a year since authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term after a state election widely seen as rigged in its favor. The former Soviet republic relentlessly continued its criticisms.
Lukashenko also headed the Belarusian Olympic Committee from the 1990s until this year. His son, Viktor, was elected to replace him.
The IOC banned the two Lukashenkos in December from attending the Tokyo Olympics after investigating complaints from athletes who faced retaliation and intimidation during a post-election security crackdown.
Alexander Lukashenko was also unable to attend the London Olympics in 2012 due to a visa ban imposed by the European Union in a previous crackdown that followed a contested election.
Yet the IOC’s sanctions list against Belarus has been criticized by activists there and international groups representing athletes who have called for a complete suspension from the National Olympic Committee. This would have allowed Tsimanouskaya and the rest of Belarus’ 103-member squad to compete as independents under the Olympic flag.
Asked on Friday how Olympic officials treated Belarus, IOC President Thomas Bach said he was “unable to change a country’s political system”.
“Our responsibility and our mission is to protect the athletes as much and as much as possible,” Bach said, calling the Tokyo incident a “deplorable case”.
In Belarus, Olympic officials said they were in close contact with the IOC and that they “will continue to defend and protect the interests of all Belarusian athletes and coaches against any form of discrimination, if any”.
However, Belarus was also selected by the European Group of National Olympic Bodies to host the 2019 European Games. This multi-sport event brought together around 4,000 athletes to compete in Minsk.
___ Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
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