The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) suspended the president of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation for five years, saying he used his post to intimidate Belarusian athletes who did not support authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government.
In a declaration on September 8, the IIHF said the decision was made after a 10-month investigation by the IIHF Disciplinary Board, which concluded that Dzmitry Baskau “was in breach of the IIHF Code of Conduct”, as well than Article 5 of the Olympic Charter for the politicization of sport.
“The board cited sufficient evidence that [Baskau] tried to directly influence others to support the Belarusian government and threatened and discriminated against Belarusian athletes because of their political opinion, ”the statement said.
“The board also determined that [Baskau] abused his position as the representative of ice hockey in order to support the current President of Belarus, “he added.
The ban applies to all domestic and international ice hockey activities for five years, the IIHF said.
Baskau, known as a close ally of Lukashenka, was also implicated in the murder of an anti-Lukashenka protester, Raman Bandarenka, in November 2020.
The IIHF move comes as the Lukashenka regime continues the crackdown on the opposition, independent journalists and rights defenders that began after a disputed August 2020 presidential election that granted Lukashenka a sixth term, triggering an unprecedented wave of protests.
Several Belarusian athletes have been sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 15 days in recent months for their open support for protests demanding Lukashenka’s resignation. Several other prominent Belarusian athletes have defected to other countries because of the situation inside the former Soviet republic.
In January, nearly 350 Belarusian athletes and other members of the sports community signed an open letter calling for the annulment of the presidential election and the release of all “political prisoners” and those detained during mass protests. that followed.
Thousands of protesters in Belarus, including dozens of journalists covering the protests, have been arrested. Some were sentenced to prison terms and hundreds of people were beaten by security agents while in detention and on the streets.
Several protesters have been killed in the violence, and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence that security agents use torture against some detainees.