The head of the Belarus Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), three-time Olympic swimming medallist Aliaksandra Herasimenia, has put her 2012 World Championship gold medal up for sale to "support all Belarusians", as a response to a criminal case opened against her by the Investigative Committee of Belarus.
Herasimenia put the medal, won in the women’s 50m freestyle at that year’s Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, up for sale on auction site eBay in response to the case opened against her and the organisation’s executive director Aliaksandr Apeikin.
In a message posted alongside the lot Herasimenia writes: "With this lot I would like to support all Belarusians, give them a charge of 100 per cent confidence in victory, because faith in victory is already 90 per cent of success."
Attached to the medal, the only one from the Short Course World Championships in her collection, is a black ribbon, symbolising all Belarusian victims and political prisoners.
The criminal case against Herasimenia and Apeikin was initiated after Herasimenia launched a social media campaign encouraging Belarusians to develop a healthy lifestyle, by taking up sports and giving up "bad habits" including smoking and alcohol.
The Investigative Committee of Belarus claim it is investigating Herasimenia and Apeikin under the article "calls to commit other actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus, committed using the media or the global computer network internet."
In a social media post, Herasimenia said instigating actions against the BSSF's leadership could result in the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) membership being withdrawn by the International Olympic Committee, potentially leading to the country's athletes having to compete at Tokyo 2020 under a neutral flag.
As part of a campaign entitled #ZOZHTeam, supported by several notable athletes, Herasimenia has criticised the actions of the country’s regime in relation to smoking and alcohol.
"In 2020 the budget of Belarus received more than $1 billion (£719 million/€847 million) from excise duties on cigarettes and alcohol," Herasimenia wrote.
"At the same time, about 15.5 thousand people die from smoking-related diseases in Belarus every year, and alcohol kills another 20 thousand people.
"According to the world population review of 2021, Belarus ranks first in terms of the amount of alcohol consumed. Not the kind of championship we dreamed of!
"To fight for a 'healthy lifestyle' and to 'take care' of the population, Lukashenko puts tobacco kiosk chains on every corner and even near schools by his decrees.
"What does he call for and what does he orientate to? What generation is he dreaming of? We call on Belarusians to give up bad habits and join our campaign."
Apeikin wrote: "According to the World Health Organisation statistics, 48.4 per cent of men and 12.6 per cent of women in Belarus smoke, and the situation with alcohol is even sadder - 64.9 per cent of men and 41.8 per cent of women occasionally drink alcohol.
"Every year, the country spends more than $125 million (£89 million/€105 million) on the treatment of non-communicable diseases associated with exposure to tobacco smoke, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy diets.
"At the same time, tobacco companies are in a privileged, economically favourable position - for the sake of factories they redraw city boundaries, reduce tax rates, abolish duties in order to increase production volumes in every possible way, while ordinary Belarusians get sick and die."
Founded in August 2020, the BSSF aims to support athletes who have suffered at the hands of the country’s regime, led by Alexander Lukashenko, a former President of the NOCRB, which is now led by his son Viktor.
Since its founding the BSSF says it has provided more than €130,000 (£110,000/$153,000) in financial support to athletes and provided "targeted assistance" to 115 individuals who applied.
It claims to currently be assisting in more than 100 cases of athletes and sports workers, who claim their rights have been violated because they have expressed their civic stance.
The ISSF also successfully campaigned for major events including the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships and the International Modern Pentathlon Union World Championships to be moved away from the country.
At the time of writing, the highest bid for Herasimenia’s medal was $14,800 (£10,600/€12,530).
Herasimenia won two silver medals at the London 2012 Olympics, in the 50 and 100 metres freestyle, and a bronze at Rio 2016 in the 50m freestyle.
As well as the World Championship short course medal, which is up for sale, Herasimenia medalled in the World Long Course Championships on three occasions - winning gold at Shanghai 2011 in the 100m freestyle, silver at Melbourne 2007 in the 50m backstroke and bronze at Budapest 2017 in the 50m backstroke.