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Krystsina Tsimanouskaya: Two Belarus coaches removed from Tokyo Olympics

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya after her news conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Aug. 5, 2021.
Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya after her news conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Aug. 5, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

Belarus on Friday said it would protect its Olympic delegations from "discrimination" after two of its coaches were removed from the Tokyo games.

The International Olympic Committee had announced earlier that it has cancelled and removed the credentials of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich, four days after they were involved in trying to send sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya back to their country.

“The two coaches were requested to leave the Olympic Village immediately and have done so,” the IOC said.

It was done as an interim measure during a formal investigation “in the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes,” the Olympic body said.

Shimak and Maisevich continued to have contact with Belarusian athletes since Sunday after the IOC linked them to taking Tsimanouskaya in a car to the airport to put her on a plane to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya had criticised team coaches on social media and is now in Poland with a humanitarian visa.

The IOC said Shimak and Maisevich “will be offered an opportunity to be heard” by its disciplinary commission investigating the case.

It was unclear if the men have stayed in Japan or will leave for Belarus, an authoritarian former Soviet republic that relentlessly pursues its critics.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee, which is headed by one of the sons of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, reacted to the announcement, writing in its Telegram account that it will continue to "protect the interests of all athletes and coaches against all forms of discrimination".

"We are open to further dialogue and are working closely with the IOC to understand the reasons for the decision that has been taken," it went on, adding that the two sanctioned officials would return to Minsk and "reserve the right to appeal".

Belarus has been in turmoil for a year since Aleksander Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term after a state election widely viewed as rigged in his favour.

Lukashenko also led the Belarusian Olympic committee since the 1990s until this year. His son, Viktor, was elected to replace him.

The IOC banned both Lukashenkos from attending the Tokyo Olympics after investigating complaints from athletes they faced reprisals and intimidation in a security crackdown after the election.

Alexander Lukashenko was previously unable to attend the 2012 London Olympics because of a European Union visa ban imposed during a previous crackdown that followed a disputed election.