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Japan says Belarusian athlete is 'safe' in Tokyo

Japan on Monday said a Belarusian Olympic sprinter was 'safe and secure', after she refused to board what she said was a forced flight home from Tokyo the night before.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sought help from Japanese police at Haneda Airport - where she says she was taken against her wishes.

She told Reuters she did not plan on ever returning to her home country.

And she might not have to.

Both Poland and the Czech Republic have now offered visas to the athlete.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato updated the media on Monday.

"We are aware that on August 1st, Belarusian track and field athlete Miss Krystsina Tsimanouskaya announced her wish to seek asylum."

"As of now, we are aware that Miss Tsimanouskaya is in a safe situation with the cooperation of the relevant organisations."

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said they were able to speak to the athlete directly.

"We are supporting her and we're listening to her, and we want to make sure that she gets what she wants and we support her in that."

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said coaches withdrew Tsimanouskaya from the games on doctors' advice about her 'emotional, psychological state'.

But the athlete's refusal to return to Belarus highlights ongoing discord in the former Soviet state, which has seen more than a year of nationwide protests under President Alexander Lukashenko.

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