All the coaches involved with the Japanese women’s judo team have been suspended following the revelations of ill-treatment by former head trainer Ryuji Sonoda, it has been announced.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) said that all of those connected with Sonoda in the abuse scandal have been suspended with immediate effect and an independent inquiry will be established soon. The decision was taken following talks with Haruki Uemura, an Olympic gold medalist from Montreal 1976, who is now President of the All Japan Judo Federation (AJJF).
Sonoda quit in disgrace earlier this month after 15 of his charges accused him and his staff of slapping, kicking and beating them during training in the run up to London 2012. Sonoda, 39, who doubles as a judo instructor for Tokyo police, was also heard telling members of the squad to “drop dead” during humiliating dressing downs.
Kazuo Yoshimura, the technical director at the AJJF, also stepped down later along with one of Sonoda’s assistant coaches.
At the end of last year, 15 female judoka sent a letter to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) complaining they had been subjected to harassment and physical violence by Sonoda at a pre-Olympic training camp.
The IJF said in a statement it is “very committed to the educational values carried out by our discipline” and that the inquiry will examine the nature of the facts, people involved and background facts. No time-scale has been given for the investigation.
“Jigoro Kano created judo as a means of physical, mental and moral education, adding that competition is not a goal but a means of evolution for humanity,” the IJF added.
Japan’s Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura has described the situation as the most serious crisis in Japan’s sports history, where judo is centerpiece.
The Government is so concerned that the scandal could negatively impact on Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics that they have announced its own independent body to investigate and prevent the abuse of athletes by their coaches in all sports.
The JOC has announced that they have found no evidence so far of abuse in any other sports.
“The Japanese Olympic Committee interviewed representatives of 31 Olympic national sport federations over the past two days as part of its new initiative to eliminate violence from sport,” they said in a statement.
“No incident of violence or harassment was reported.
“The JOC will conduct further investigations with top athletes and coaches to ensure that violence has no place in sport.
“Next week, the JOC will discuss measures for enhancing the qualities of coaching and to reaffirm the absolute importance of governance in 57 national sport federations.
“The JOC will take all necessary steps to protect the dignity of athletes and sport in Japan.
“Under the strong leadership of President Tsunekazu Takeda, the JOC will work with the national sport federations to implement organizational improvements.
“This includes strengthening rules and regulations and establishing permanent confidential hotlines to eliminate violence from sport.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is a blog of the London Organizing Committee that helped put on the recent Summer Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission of the authors of the blog.