4th August 2021

IOC & CAS allow Belarus to boot Tsimanouskaya out of Tokyo 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have allowed Belarusian sporting authorities to remove Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (Крысціна Ціманоўская) from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 200m runner was critical of a Belarus Athletics Federation (BFLA) Decision to include her and Elvira Herman on the 4x400m relay team without discussing it with her, after Anna Mikhaylova (Анны Михайловой) and Kristina Mulyarchik (Кристины Мулярчик) were pulled from the team by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics due to not having undergone the required number of anti-doping tests.

The full CAS Decision (PDF below) reveals that following Tsimanouskaya’s criticism, on 1 August the ‘Belarussian delegation’ decided to withdraw her from the 200m, citing a doctor’s report on her mental and emotional state. Tsimanouskaya refuted this on Instagram, arguing that she hadn’t been examined by a doctor. All her Instagram posts have since been removed.

After this, Tsimanouskaya argued that the Belarus Olympic Committee (HOKРБ) attempted to forcibly fly her back to Belarus, and she asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to intervene. ‘Prior to boarding the plane she was, and pursuant to her Application she has been, secured by the Japanese police at an undisclosed site since the Applicant had started the process of “shelter granting” (i.e. seeking asylum)’, reads the CAS Decision. 

It is understood (see below) that Tsimanouskaya has since been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland’s embassy in Japan. It is also understood that she will arrive on a flight to Warsaw today.

The CAS Decision

Tsimanouskaya filed her appeal to the CAS on 2 August, the day of the 200m qualifications. ‘The President of the CAS Ad hoc Division, in accordance with Article 14 of the CAS Arbitration Rules for the Olympic Games (the “CAS Ad hoc Rules”), ruled ex parte and issued at 10h00 (time of Tokyo) the following Order on Request for Stay: 1: The urgent application for a stay filed at 8:30am on 2 August 2021 by Ms Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is dismissed’, reads the Decision.

CAS Ad Hoc Rules on protection from irreparable harm…

Article 14 of the CAS Arbitration Rules for the Olympic Games allows the President of the CAS Ad Hoc Division to issue a ruling without hearing the respondent (the HOKРБ), considering if relief is necessary to protect the applicant (Tsimanouskaya) from irreparable harm (see right). Due to not having enough information to conclude whether Tsimanouskaya’s application for relief was likely to be successful, as required by CAS rules, the President of the CAS Ad Hoc Division appears to have sided with the HOKРБ.

‘A proper review of the Applicant’s interests must, in light of the strong statements in her Application concerning her safety, entail going beyond merely the specific relief requested in the Application, which appears to be moot at this juncture’, reads the Decision. ‘Ensuring that the Applicant and the President of the CAS Ad hoc Division or the CAS Panel understand those interests requires further investigation. Further, the interests of World Athletics – which, if this procedure had not been ex parte, would have been joined as an interested party – must be considered. World Athletics’ ability to manage the competition in a manner guarantying the safety of the Applicant (if she were to compete) and the effect thereof on the other athletes appears seriously compromised in light of the exceedingly short advance notice that it would receive of the present situation.’

Context

In February, Victor Lukashenko replaced his father Alexander as President of the HOKРБ. An August 2020 ‘election’ returning Alexander Lukashenko as President of Belarus was not recognised as legitimate by the European Union or the United States. In September 2020, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documented over 450 cases where protesters against the ‘election’ result have been tortured or abused.

In March, the IOC issued provisional measures against Belarus, due to the HOKРБ’s failure to adequately protect athletes from political discrimination. In April, the two founding members of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) were charged by Belarusian authorities (see right).

The practice of sport is a human right’, reads the fourth Fundamental Principle of Olympism as outlined in the Olympic Charter. ‘Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit’. It also outlines that the mission of the IOC is ‘to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement’. IOC Members must take the Olympic Oath, which requires them to ‘fight against all forms of discrimination’.

It is understood that the IOC has launched an investigation. Under the Olympic Charter, Tsimanouskaya had a right to compete without being subject to discrimination. The CAS had an additional mission to protect her from irreparable harm. 

Tsimanouskaya’s Olympic dream is over and she is living in political exile in Poland. Meanwhile, Belarus continues to compete at Tokyo 2020. At the moment, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that by prioritising the interests of sporting bodies ahead of those of the athlete, both the IOC and CAS have failed her.

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