Belarus: IOC expels two coaches over Krystina Timanovskaya case

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Two Belarusian coaches have lost their Olympic accreditations after allegedly attempting to force an athlete to leave the Games in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich had left the Olympic Village. An investigation is under way.

The case of Krystina Timanovskaya caught global attention after she refused her team’s orders to fly home.

She is now in Poland, where she has been granted a humanitarian visa.

The case has again put the spotlight on Belarus, which has been ruled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Last year, nationwide protests over his disputed re-election were violently repressed by the security forces.

Belarus says Ms Timanovskaya was removed from the national team because of her emotional state. But the 24-year-old says this is not true, saying she was removed because she spoke on Instagram about the “negligence of [her] coaches”.

In a statement, the IOC said it had removed the accreditations of the two coaches “as a provisional measure… in the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus who are still in Tokyo”.

The body said a disciplinary commission had been established to investigate the incident and that both coaches would be “offered an opportunity to be heard”.

The Belarusian Olympic committee released its own statement on Friday, reported by state news agency Belta. It said it was working with the IOC to “clarify” the reasons behind their decision, and vowed to protect its team from “any forms of discrimination”.

The body confirmed the coaches would return to Belarus soon, but said they “reserve the right to appeal this decision”.

IOC President Thomas Bach said at a press conference on Friday the committee was “happy” Ms Timanovskaya was safely in Poland, and called what happened to her “deplorable”, Reuters news agency reported.

Japan’s foreign ministry said it was “unjust” and “not acceptable” that Belarusian authorities had pressured the sprinter to fly home, Reuters reported.

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