• REUTERS, KYODO

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The IOC said Tuesday it was waiting for a report later in the day from the Belarusian National Olympic Committee on the case of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, after launching an investigation into an incident that has rocked the Games.

The athlete took refuge in the Polish Embassy in Tokyo on Monday, a day after refusing her team's orders to board a flight home from the Olympic Games. Warsaw has offered her a humanitarian visa.

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told reporters the body had spoken to the athlete twice on Monday, that she was in a safe, secure place, and that the IOC needed to know all the facts before taking further action.

"We are expecting and have asked for a report from the National Olympic Committee of Belarus for today," Adams said, adding the IOC was still gathering the facts.

"We want it (report) today. We have decided to launch a formal investigation. We need to establish the full facts. We need to hear everyone involved."

Asked whether an IOC decision on the matter would come during the Games, Adams said it was not possible to estimate how long the investigation would take.

"That obviously can take time. We need to get to be bottom of it. How long that will take I do not know," he said.

The incident has focused attention on Belarus, where police have cracked down on dissent following a wave of protests triggered by an election last year which the opposition says was rigged to keep President Alexander Lukashenko in power.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, had been due to compete in the women's 200-meter heats on Monday but said that on Sunday she was taken out of her room in the athletes village and driven to the airport to board a flight home after criticizing team officials.

"We have also now contacted the NOC of Poland. In terms of what the IOC can do for her future, we have talked to them with regard to her sport, after her arrival in Warsaw if that is indeed where she chooses to end up," Adams said.

A group of supporters of the Belarusian athlete said she will travel to Poland on Wednesday.

"She will fly from Tokyo, a direct flight to Warsaw on Aug. 4," said Aleksandr Opeykin, chairman of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation.

"She has accepted the offer issued by the Polish Foreign Ministry to request international help, she has done that and she has received a Polish visa. We, at the Foundation, helped her to get the ticket to Warsaw," Opeykin said.

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya stands surrounded by police officers at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Sunday. | REUTERS
Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya stands surrounded by police officers at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Sunday. | REUTERS

A source at the foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday.

"She is a young sportswoman, a successful one and obviously she would want to continue her career so she will need help to train and develop," Opeykin said.

Polish deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski said: "I can confirm that we have issued a humanitarian visa. I can confirm that we will provide all necessary support in Poland if she wishes to use it."

Her husband, Arseni Zhdanevich, will join her in Poland, a Warsaw-based Belarusian opposition politician said.

The politician, Pavel Latushko, said Belarus officials had told Tsimanouskaya's mother that her daughter was a spy for Western governments.

He said Tsimanouskaya had told him via text message that someone from Lukashenko's office had approached her mother and asked her to persuade the athlete to come home.

The European Union welcomed Poland's decision to grant a visa and said the repatriation attempt was further evidence of "brutal repression" by Lukashenko.

In March, the IOC refused to recognize the election of Lukashenko's son Viktor as head of the country's Olympic Committee. Both father and son were banned from attending the Games in December.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken blasted Belarus' attempt to send Tsimanouskaya home. "Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated," Blinken wrote on Twitter late on Monday.

Japan has played something of a mediator role in the situation, with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi saying Tuesday that Tsimanouskaya was in a "safe situation."

"We, in cooperation with relevant parties, are trying to keep her safe. … She is now in a safe situation," Motegi told a regular news conference.

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