Running From Home: The IOC investigates Olympic sprinter’s allegations
September 4, 2021
2 min read
What's going on here?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is investigating a Belarusian sprinter’s allegation that her team officials tried to force her to return to Belarus against her will.
What does this mean?
Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya was set to compete at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, after criticising her coaches on social media for entering her into a 4x400m relay race at short notice, she was withdrawn from the team. According to Belarusian team officials, she was removed from the Olympics due to her emotional state. Timanovskaya, on the other hand, states that team officials tried to force her to return to Belarus against her will after she was removed from the team. She feared for her safety because her criticism of her coaches may be interpreted as a political statement against the Belarusian government.
Timanovskaya is currently in Poland, having been granted a humanitarian visa. The IOC has also launched an investigation into the event. As a result of the investigation, two Belarusian team coaches have been stripped of their credentials and asked to leave the Olympic Village.
What's the big picture effect?
The IOC describes the Olympic Games as being apolitical, stating that one of the fundamental principles of the Olympics is to promote peace and development through sport. At the Tokyo Olympics this year, it was made clear that displays of athlete activism, such as taking a knee or raising a fist in relation to a political, religious or racial issue, was prohibited.
Despite the IOC’s attempts to keep sports and politics separate, it seems that the Olympic Games still serve as a platform for international politics. This has been exemplified by the IOC’s handling of this situation with Belarus. Before the issue arose with Timanovskaya, the IOC had already prohibited the Belarusian president, Lukashenko, and his son from attending the Tokyo Olympics. This is because many Belarusian citizens, including athletes and coaches, were harassed and jailed for participating in peaceful protests during the latest elections in Belarus. The Belarusian National Olympic Committee (BNOC) had thus failed to protect its athletes from political discrimination. The IOC’s decision to investigate the BNOC and Timanovskaya’s coaches, together with its decision to ban Lukashenko from the Olympics, will probably be interpreted as a political statement by some. Others, however, may interpret this event as the IOC simply performing its duty of care towards its athletes and ensuring their safety.
The IOC, therefore, is finding it increasingly difficult to keep sports and politics separate. This may be especially true given the fact that inaction may be seen as a political statement in and of itself.
Report written by Catrin Trefor
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