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Darya Dolidovich: Belarusian skier flees to Poland after Winter Olympics ban

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By Matthew Holroyd
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The 17-year-old cross-country skier was banned from competing in January.
The 17-year-old cross-country skier was banned from competing in January.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

A cross-country skier has fled Belarus for Poland after being banned from competing at the Winter Olympics due to their political views.

Darya Dolidovich confirmed on Wednesday that she had gone into exile with her father and coach, Sergei, who himself is a former Olympic skier.

"We left, but I believe we will return," Sergei Dolidovich wrote on Facebook.

"It's nice when the whole family is together, now we'll see Warsaw thoroughly," he said, adding "Long live Belarus".

Darya Dolidovich, aged 17, had already been banned in January from participating in international competitions, including the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics.

Belarusian authorities gave no official reason, but the father of the young skier has repeatedly expressed his support for the country's opposition.

Sergei Dolidovich, who represented Belarus at seven Olympic Games, said his daughter had been punished because of him.

The authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko has waged a widespread crackdown on opponents since his disputed re-election in August 2020.

Several Belarusian athletes have been banned from competing, and even imprisoned or forced into exile.

At last year's Tokyo Olympics, sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sought international help after claiming she was being forced to return to Belarus after criticising the country's athletics federation.

The 25-year-old was eventually granted a humanitarian visa by Warsaw after spending two days in Tokyo's Polish embassy.

In November, freestyle Olympic skier Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya was arrested and fined for participating in mass opposition demonstrations.

**On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed it was aware of Darya Dolidovich's case.

"It was initially a disciplinary action between the national federation and the athlete for some breach," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in a briefing.**

"If the International Ski Federation want to look into it further then they obviously will do," he added.

"We've reiterated our call to ... all international federations to make sure that Belarusian athletes can compete safely without any discrimination."

Additional sources • AFP