A Belarusian sprinter competing at the Tokyo Olympics released a video on Sunday calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help her avoid being returned to her native country against her will.
Athlete Kristina Timanovskaya said in the short video released on social media: “I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the IOC to intervene.”
It appeared online after Timanovskaya was told she will no longer be able to compete for Belarus and that she must return to its capital Minsk immediately, according to Anatol Kotau, of the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation. The group represents Belarusian athletes repressed by Belarusian authorities.
Kotau, who is in direct contact with Timanovskaya, said that at around 3:00 p.m. local time (2:00 a.m. ET) on Sunday, representatives of the Belarus national team came to the Olympic village and asked her to “pack her belongings as a decision had been made for her to return to Minsk.”
Timanovskaya is currently at Haneda International Airport police station, Kotau told CNN by phone. Kotau added that the athlete was scheduled to be on flight TK0199 to Istanbul, departing at 10:50 p.m. Tokyo time.
Kotau said that as soon as Timanovskaya arrived at the airport, she approached a Japanese police officer and said she would like to apply for political asylum.
The Belarusian National Olympic Committee said Sunday that Timanovskaya was withdrawn from the Games due to her “emotional and psychological state.”
“According to the doctors’ conclusion, due to the emotional and psychological state of the Belarusian track and field athlete Kristina Timanovskaya, the coaching staff of the national track and field team decided to stop the athlete’s performance at the Games of the XXXII Olympics,” the committee said in a statement on their Facebook page.
“Therefore, the athlete’s application for participation in the qualifying races for the 200 meter and in the 4×400 meter relay has been withdrawn,” it added.
In an Instagram post on Friday July 30, Timanovskaya said that she had been included on a list to compete in the 4x400m relay without her consent.
“I would never in my life begin to react so harshly if they would come up to me in advance, explain the situation and find out if I can run 400m and I am ready? But they decided to do everything behind my back despite the fact that I tried to find out this information but was only ignored,” she wrote.
The IOC said in a statement to CNN: “The IOC has seen the reports in the media, is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC (National Olympic Committee of Belarus) for clarification.”
CNN has reached out to Timanovksaya herself, the Belarusian National Olympic Team and the Belarusian Embassy in Tokyo for more information, but has not received a response.
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