Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was removed from the Tokyo Olympics without her consent on Sunday after she criticized sports officials, according to an NGO that supports athletes in conflict with Belarus' authoritarian regime.
The 24-year-old athlete had objected publicly to being entered into the women's 400m relay at the Games by Belarus' athletics federation without prior notice.
Appeal to IOC
In a video posted on the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation's (BSSF) website, Tsimanouskaya asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help her.
"I am under pressure and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the International Olympic Committee to interfere," Tsimanouskaya said in the video.
She told Reuters news agency via Telegram that she did not plan to return to her home country, adding that she had asked Japanese police at Tokyo's Haneda airport to give her protection.
The IOC tweeted that it was looking into the situation and was seeking "clarification" from the NOC (Belarusian Olympics officials).
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya "was forced by the regime" to leave the Olympics and that the athlete was "afraid to come back to Minsk."
"No athlete should be forced this way," Tsikhanouskaya added.
The Belarusian Olympic Committee gave a very different account of events, saying in a statement that Tsimanouskaya had left the competition on medical advice. It cited problems with her "emotional and psychological state."
The BSSF quoted Tsimanouskaya as denying that she was even examined by doctors. A source at the NGO said she planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday.
The source said Tsimanouskaya was "being transported to a safe place now'' and would be in contact with European diplomats.
Belarusian authorities have clamped down hard on dissent in the country following heavily disputed August elections won by long-time President Alexander Lukashenko.