Judo punished by Japanese Olympic Committee with funding cut after abuse scandal

Tuesday, 19 March 2013
By Duncan Mackay

Kaori Matsumoto London 2012March 19 - Judo has had its funding cut by the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) as punishment for its coaches abusing female judokas in preparation for London 2012, it was announced today. 

The JOC also ordered it to take preventive measures to try to ensure that such a scandal, which included female competitors being beaten with a bamboo sword, never happens again.

But the All Japan Judo Federation (AJJF) has decided that none of its current senior executives, including chairman Haruki Uemura, the 1976 Olympic gold medallist in the open category, should have to resign over the issue which has rocked the country where the sport was born.

The suspension, which will affect the fiscal year starting in April, will be the first time the JOC has withheld a grant to a sport's governing body.

It includes them cancelling an annual $260,000 (£172,000/€201,000) subsidy for the AJJF and issued a series of directives, including a ban on violent coaching, more transparency in team selections and increased hiring of female coaches.

Fifteen current and former members of the women's team had sent a joint letter of complaint to the JOC alleging harassment and violence by head coach Ryuji Sonoda and his staff in the build-up to London 2012.

"After a thorough review, the Committee concluded that serious misconduct had occurred," the JOC said in a statement released today.

"The directives include prohibition of violence or misconduct directed at athletes by coaches, the establishment of a framework for athletes to communicate concerns to the organisation's decision makers, clear and transparent procedures for selection of national team members, and the increased hiring of women as coaches and AJJF executives.

"The Executive Board also decided to cut the AJJF's annual subsidy for team development in the fiscal year starting next month."

The JOC has also established an anonymous reporting system for any violence, harassment or misconduct in sports.

Haruki Uemura press conference Tokyo March 2013AJJF chairman Haruki Uemura bows during a press conference after a Board meeting of the beleagured governing body in Tokyo

Following a series of interview with the women, the JOC concluded that Sonoda, a former world gold medalist in the men's 60-kilogram division, threatened the women by swinging around a stick in front of their face, cursed "drop dead" or called them "ugly" and other derogatory names.

A separate report, commissioned by the AJJF, found evidence that Sonoda allegedly hit one woman with with a broom handle several times during a camp in Kushiro, Hokkaido, in 2010.

In the same year, he hit the same judoka several times and lashed out at her, screaming "You must die," during the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Sonoda resigned as coach after facing the allegations earlier this year.

The JOC also revealed that 206, or 11 per cent of the nearly 1,800 Olympic athletes across all sports who responded to a recent survey claimed they have suffered sexual harassment and physical violence by their coaches.

Twenty of them said they had to be treated for their injuries, while 145 others said they suffered mentally.

Most commonly, coaches said use of violence as corporal punishment because of attitude problems or poor performance during competition.

A proposal by Nobuyuki Sato, deputy chairman of the AJJF, that they needed to examine their own liability in light of the scandal was defeated and it was agreed at a meeting in Tokyo that the current Board should remain in their positions. 

But they agreed to appoint Chiyori Masuchi, the Barcelona 1992 Olympic -56 kilogram bronze medallist, to a newly created post of overseeing young players coming up through the system. 

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz


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