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AIU bans Olympic coach for five years

AIU bans Olympic coach for five years

An Olympic coach who tried to force the sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya home from the Tokyo Games to Belarus, where she feared for her safety, was banned from the sport for five years on Tuesday.

Yury Moisevich’s actions in Tokyo were adjudged to be “a clear affront to the athlete’s dignity and an abuse of … power,” the Athletics Integrity Unit said. He also was found guilty of “providing false or inaccurate information in the course of events leading up to the athlete’s departure from the Olympic Village” in August 2021. The 63-year-old coach is banned from working in track and field until February 2029.

Tsimanouskaya’s ordeal became a diplomatic incident during the second half of the Tokyo Olympics. She went on social media during the Games to question why she had been entered in the 4×400 relay without her knowledge and despite never racing the event. The Belarus track team had lost some athletes because of doping issues. Coaches decided to send her home and she was escorted by team officials to Haneda airport in Tokyo.

At the airport, Tsimanouskaya spoke on the phone to her grandmother, who told her of a backlash against her from state-run media at home. The government of the president, Alexander Lukashenko, had cracked down on dissent since his disputed reelection one year earlier.

Lukashenko was the longtime head of the Belarus Olympic Committee, though he had been suspended by the International Olympic Committee from coming to Tokyo in the fallout from widespread pro-democracy protests. Athletes in Belarus said they had faced reprisals and intimidation. Belarusian athletes in Tokyo were still under the control of state-backed officials, who tried to get Tsimanouskaya back to Minsk.

Tsimanouskaya sought help at the airport from police who took her away from Belarusian officials. She took refuge in Poland’s embassy in Tokyo and was given a humanitarian visa to travel there days later. Four days after the episode at the airport, the IOC revoked Olympic credentials for Moisevich, who led a team of 31 athletes in Tokyo.

The disciplinary case was helped by Tsimanouskaya because she “recorded part of her conversations with Moisevich, the content of which served as evidence during the hearing”, the AIU said.

The AIU’s chairman, David Howman, said in a statement: “The dignity of all athletes is of paramount importance and every attempt must be made to guarantee the environment in which they compete is free of harassment, abuse and bad faith dealings of any kind.”

Tsimanouskaya was cleared last year to run for Poland at the world championships. She was eliminated in the heats of the 100m, reached the semi-finals in the 200m and was in the 4x100m relay team that placed fifth. Now aged 27, she is a contender to race for her new home nation at the Paris Olympics, which start in late July.

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