Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya left Tokyo for Austria on Wednesday and was expected to head for Poland, where she has been offered a humanitarian visa, adding another dramatic twist to her diplomatic saga.
The 24-year-old had been expected to take a direct flight to Warsaw but switched at the last minute, an airport official told reporters. A member of the Belarusian community in touch with Tsimanouskaya said diplomats had changed her flight due to security concerns.
Tsimanouskaya was granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after she refused to board a flight on Sunday and sought protection from Japanese police at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, saying she was being forced to return to Belarus for criticizing her coach and she feared for her safety if she returned home.
Escorted by officials, Tsimanouskaya, wearing a mask and sunglasses, arrived at Narita Airport on Wednesday morning after leaving Poland's Embassy in Tokyo but did not respond to reporters' questions. She boarded a flight bound to Vienna with two people believed to be Polish diplomats.
The International Olympic Committee said it has received a written report from Belarus's National Olympic Committee on Tsimanouskaya's case.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press briefing that its disciplinary commission will "establish the facts" in the case of the sprinter following the receipt Wednesday of the report and will question two Belarusian officials who were allegedly involved in trying to put her on a flight back home.
The two officials are Yuri Moisevich, the national team's head coach, and Artur Shumak, deputy director of the country's track and field training center, according to the IOC.
After spending the night at a hotel near Haneda Airport under the protection of Japanese authorities, she entered the embassy on Monday and was later granted a humanitarian visa.
Polish Ambassador to Japan Pawel Milewski on Tuesday tweeted that Tsimanouskaya is "doing well and thanks us all for extending a helping hand against those who do not wish her well."
The sprinter had complained via social media that she was entered in the 4×400 meter relay despite having never competed in the event. She ran in the 100 meters but did not qualify for the semifinals and had been due to make an appearance in the 200-meter heats on Monday but did not compete.
The Belarusian National Olympic Committee is headed by Viktor Lukashenko, son of the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Both have been banned from attending the Tokyo Olympics amid allegations of discrimination against athletes who took part in protests against the president's controversial re-election in August 2020.
The sprinter was one of more than 2,000 Belarusian sports figures who signed an open letter calling for new elections and for political prisoners to be freed.
Her husband has now fled to Ukraine and the pair are expected to meet up in Poland, which is a staunch critic of Lukashenko's regime and has become home to a growing number of dissidents.
NGO Global Athlete said Tsimanouskaya's "alleged kidnapping … is yet another example of the alarming athlete abuse occurring in Belarus."
Shortly before the Tokyo Games, Lukashenko warned sports officials and athletes that he expected results in Japan.
"Think about it before going," he said. "If you come back with nothing, it's better for you not to come back at all."
Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, sparked international outrage in May by dispatching a fighter jet to intercept a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania in order to arrest a dissident onboard.
The Belarusian committee has not publicly made any comments on the case since saying in a statement on Sunday that it withdrew her from the games "based on doctors' advice regarding her emotional and psychological state."
Poland was among several other European countries that had offered to assist Tsimanouskaya. The other countries included Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.