A Belarusian Olympic sprinter plans to seek asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday after her country’s Olympic committee attempted to send her home for complaining about her coaches.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, had been scheduled to compete in the women’s 200 meter race on Monday — before coaches came to her room Sunday and told her to pack.
“I will not return to Belarus,” Tsimanouskaya told Reuters in a message via Telegram, after seeking protection from Japanese police.
“I think I am safe. I am with the police,” she told a Reuters photographer who observed her standing with local officers at Haneda Airport.
The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that coaches pulled Tsimanouskaya from the Games due to her “emotional, psychological state.”
Tsimanouskaya complained she was entered in the 4×400 m relay after some members of the team were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics because they had not undergone a sufficient amount of doping tests.
“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4×400 m relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests,” Tsimanouskaya told Reuters from the airport.
“And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.”
Tsimanouskaya asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene in her case in a video published by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation.
Belarus has faced political chaos since a disputed election last August led to massive protests, which dictator Alexander Lukashenko violently quashed.
Unusually in a country where elite athletes often rely on government funding, some prominent Belarusian athletes joined the protests.
Several were jailed, including Olympic basketball player Yelena Leuchanka and decathlete Andrei Krauchanka.
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