The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on Wednesday banned the head of the Belarusian ice hockey federation, Dmitry Baskov, for five years,
It is the latest decision from the ice hockey governing body against Belarus, where the opposition accuses President Alexander Lukashenko of a crackdown on dissent.
IIHF cites 'abuse' of power
The IIHF said it conducted a 10-month investigation and found that Baskov "abused his position as a representative of ice hockey" to support Lukashenko.
Baskov violated the federation's code of conduct by trying to "directly influence others to support the government and has threatened and discriminated Belarusian athletes because of their political opinion," the IIHF's statement said.
The IIHF said its disciplinary panel confirmed Baskov "has close personal ties to President Lukashenko as well as hockey connections with two of the president's sons."
The five-year ban from all national and international ice hockey activities comes into effect on September 10. It applies to any national and international ice hockey events.
IIHF also said it had investigated reports that Baskov was involved in the attack against Roman Bondarenko, a Belarusian citizen who died after he was allegedly beaten by security forces last November.
It said: "Although it cannot be excluded that Baskov was present at the event, it did not find evidence for an active involvement of Baskov in the attack against Bondarenko."
Belarus defends Baskov's 'personal civic opinion'
The Belarus Hockey Federation said the ruling was the result of the "constantly increasing pressure of political forces on the IIHF."
It said Baskov would not step down, and that he had merely expressed his "personal civic opinion" on issues.
Baskov can challenge the decision in an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Belarusian sports authorities have recently faced a backlash. The International Olympic Committee stripped two Belarus coaches of their credentials after sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said they had forced her to return home from the Tokyo Olympics.
fb/rc (AP, dpa)