A group of activists supporting Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was in danger in Belarus and would seek asylum at the Austrian embassy in Tokyo.
Tsimanouskaya said in a video message posted on social media that she had been pressured by Belarusian team officials and asked for help from the International Olympic Committee.
“I have been pressured and they are trying to force me out of the country without my consent,” said the 24-year-old runner.
Tsimanouskaya, who is due to compete in the 200-meter Olympic qualifiers on Monday, criticized Belarusian team officials on his Instagram account. She said she was put in the 4 × 400 relay although she never participated in the event.
The Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said government supporters had targeted the athlete, and Tsimanouskaya contacted the group for help to avoid what she feared was a forced eviction to Minsk.
“The campaign was pretty serious and it was a clear signal that his life would be in danger in Belarus,” BSSF spokesman Alexander Opeikin told The Associated Press in an interview.
Tsimanouskaya summoned Japanese police to Haneda Airport and did not board a flight from Istanbul. Officials from the Foreign Ministry later arrived at the airport, Opeikin said.
In a statement released by the BSSF, Tsimanouskaya said she was at a police station early Monday morning.
“I explained the situation to a policeman about how I was taken from the Olympic Village,” she said. “Now I’m in a safe situation and I’m wondering where I’m going to spend the night.
The IOC, which clashed with Belarus’ National Olympic Committee ahead of the Tokyo Games, said it had intervened.
“The IOC (…) is examining the situation and has requested clarifications from the NOC,” the Olympic Games said in a statement.
Belarus’s neighbor, Poland, where many critics of the Minsk regime have come to live, offered to help Tsimanouskaya. Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya had been offered a “humanitarian visa and was free to pursue her sports career in Poland if she wished”.
The Belarusian National Olympic Committee has been headed for more than 25 years by the president of the authoritarian state Alexander Lukashenko and his son Viktor.
The two Lukashenkos have been banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC, which has investigated complaints from athletes that they have been the subject of reprisals and intimidation following protests since last August after the country’s disputed presidential election .
A spokeswoman for the Belarusian Olympic team did not respond to a request for comment.
Tsimanouskaya was taken to a safe place and would seek asylum at the Austrian embassy, Opeikin said.
Tsimanouskaya has already represented Belarus on the first day of the track events on Friday at the Tokyo National Stadium. She placed fourth in her first-round 100-meter race, clocking 11.47 seconds, and did not advance.
Kozin reported from Moscow.
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