Belarusian skier flees country after ban for political views

BEIJING: A Belarusian cross-country skier has fled the country with her family because of fears of reprisals by authorities after she was barred from competition over the family’s political views, she and her father said.

Darya Dolidovich and her family are now in Poland, where she hopes to continue training, Sergei Dolidovich, a seven-time Olympian cross-country skier who also coaches Darya, told Reuters in an interview by video call with his daughter on Tuesday.

Reuters reported last month that 17-year-old Darya was barred from competing for what Sergei and his daughter believe were his participation in street protests against the 2020 re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that opponents said was fraudulent. Lukashenko has denied rigging the vote.

“Darya has been stripped of her right to take part in competitions,” he said. “I don’t see the possibility of her continuing her career in Belarus.”

“We could be accused of staging a demonstration and shouting (opposition) slogans, then just be sent to prison,” he said.

“Three months ago, I couldn’t have imagined, even in a nightmare, that I would end up leaving my country.”

The Dolidovich family’s departure comes a few days into the Beijing Winter Olympics, where the Belarusian national team is under scrutiny following the defection of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at the Tokyo Games last year.

Darya, one of the country’s most promising junior cross-country skiers, said last month that the Belarus Ski Union deactivated her FIS code, an individual identifying number required for athletes to take part in competitions run by the International Ski Federation (FIS).

The Belarus Ski Union told Dolidovich’s coaching staff that it deactivated her FIS code in December in response to a decision by the Belarus Cross-Country Skiing Federation, according to a January 31 letter reviewed by Reuters. The letter did not say why that decision was made.

In response to questions from Reuters, the FIS said it had not heard back from Belarusian ski officials since requesting further information last month on the deactivation of Darya Dolidovich’s FIS code.


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