Japanese Women's Judo Coach Resigns Over Claims He Abused Athletes
Japan women's judo coach Ryuji Sonoda has resigned "amid accusations that he physically abused athletes" in the buildup to the London Olympics, according to Justin McCurry of the London GUARDIAN. Sonoda is accused of "harassing and assaulting female judoka" while they were preparing for the London Games. The revelations have "rocked the Japanese martial art," coming the same week as former Olympic two-time Gold Medalist Masato Uchishiba was sentenced to five years in prison for raping a female member of a university judo club in '11. Uchishiba, 34, won Gold Medals in the 66kg in Athens and Beijing. Japan's judo federation confirmed that Sonoda, a former world champion in the 60kg category, had "used violence against the women." Sonoda admitted the allegations were "more or less true." He said: "I deeply regret that I have caused trouble with my behaviour, words and actions. It will be difficult for me to continue coaching the team" (GUARDIAN, 2/1).
DAMAGE CONTROL: The Japanese Olympic Committee said that it found the behavior by Sonoda "most regrettable." A JOC statement read, "Violence has no place in sport and directly contradicts the values of the Olympic Movement." The JOC also announced following an emergency board meeting Thursday that it will launch an investigation by board members and a third-party lawyer to review all facts in the case. The JOC will also conduct separate investigations for each national sport federation to confirm that similar misconduct has not occurred (JOC). The AFP reported JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda had "ordered swift action to avoid any contamination" of Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics. Takeda said, "We will be trying to restore public trust in sport and work to prevent the (Olympic) bid from being affected" (AFP, 2/2).