TOKYO (AP) — Two Belarus team coaches have been removed from the Olympics, four days after they were involved in trying to send sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya back to their country.
The International Olympic Committee said Friday it has canceled and removed the credentials of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich.
Throughout the crisis, Ukraine’s leaders have sought to project calm — repeatedly playing down the threat of an invasion.
“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 criticized 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.
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 favor.
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 in December from attending the Tokyo Olympics after investigating complaints from athletes they faced reprisals and intimidation in a security crackdown after the election.
Still, the IOC’s slate of sanctions against Belarus was criticized by activists there and international groups representing athletes who urged a full suspension of the national Olympic committee.
That would have let Tsimanouskaya and the rest of the 103-member Belarus team compete as independents under the Olympic flag.
Asked Friday about how Olympic officials had handled Belarus, IOC President Thomas Bach said it was “not in a position to change the political system in a country.”
“What our responsibility and our remit is is to protect the athletes as much and as far as we can,” Bach said, describing the incident in Tokyo as a “deplorable case.”
Alexander Lukashenko was unable to attend the 2012 London Olympics because of a European Union visa ban imposed during a previous crackdown that followed a disputed election.
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