By James Crook

Ryuji Sonoda at London 2012January 30 - Japan's Olympic female judokas were routinely slapped and beaten with bamboo swords by head coach Ryuji Sonoda (pictured), according to officials.

A total of 15 judokas that competed at the London 2012 Olympics, came forward last month to complain to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) about the physical abuse that Sonoda subjected them to on a regular basis.

"We received information that Mr Sonoda, the head coach of the female national team, might have been physically bullying athletes," said All Japan Judo Federation head Koshi Onozawa at a news conference in Tokyo.

"Our executive office took this seriously and questioned both him and athletes, discovering the charges were largely true,"

Sonoda did not deny the charges, according to Japanese news network Kyodo News, quoting him as saying: "Until now I have been doing things the way I saw fit, but I will mend the things that need fixing,"

160355031All Japan Judo Federation head Koshi Onozawa admits that allegations of physical abuse were "largely true"

The news comes as another bitter blow for the sports image in the country, after it was found that Japan's Masato Uchishiba, the two-time Olympic -66 kilogram judo gold medallist, would face charges after being accused of raping a teenage girl earlier this month.

Uchishiba was arrested in December 2011 as a result of the allegation, which was made while he was coaching the women's judo team at Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare in Kumamoto Prefecture, which he was fired from following the incident.

Corporal punishment in Japanese sport has come to the fore recently following the suicide of a teenage boy, who endured a series of beatings from his basketball coach.

Despite the current stigma surrounding the topic, Sonoda has retained his job, with the AJJF warning that coaches "will face a harsher punishment if a similar incident happens in the future".

Meanwhile, Tokyo Metropolitan Police are investigating the incidents, with a spokesman saying: "We are trying to confirm the facts around this issue, including questioning relevant people."

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