Dhe former Belarusian swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia was sentenced in absentia to twelve years in a penal colony in her home country. This is reported by the Belarusian state news agency “Belta”. The multiple Olympic medalist is accused of “publicly calling for actions damaging to the national security of Belarus, including the application of restrictive measures (sanctions) against Belarus”. Herasimenia, who ended her career in 2019 and lives in exile in Lithuania, is considered a regime opponent and critic of the ruler Lukashenka. The 36-year-old advocated a boycott of sporting events in Belarus and appealed to the International Olympic Committee to suspend her home country.
Herasimenia is also a co-founder of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation (BSSF). The organization offered financial and legal help to Belarusian athletes persecuted by the state for their political views. The BSSF is now classified as a terrorist organization in Belarus. At the 2012 Olympics in London, she won silver in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. Four years later in Rio de Janeiro, she also won bronze in the 50 meters.
After the controversial re-election of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, there were nationwide protests in 2020, during which more than 35,000 people were arrested. Several athletes were also targeted by the regime. The two cross-country skiers Swiatlana Andryiuk and Darya Dolidovich were withdrawn from international competitions for supporting the opposition.
Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya, 2019 Women’s Freestyle Skiing World Champion, was released from the national team in late October 2020 for “absent time” and later sold her gold medal to raise money for the BSSF. In November 2021, she was arrested by the police and fined 1000 euros.