By James Crook

158737213February 5 - Japan's Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura has described the scandal surrounding the abuse by national judo head coach Ryuji Sonoda on female athletes as the "gravest crisis in Japan's sporting history".

Sonoda offered his resignation last week after admitting that allegations that he slapped and beat his judokas with wooden swords were "more or less true".

"The incident is the gravest crisis in Japan's sporting history," said Shimomura, whose portfolio also includes education, culture, science and technology.

"We should not shy away from the facts and should review not only judo but all sorts of sports to see whether they have overlooked violence in the name of achieving sporting excellence.

"This is the time that Japan can show both to those inside and outside the country that it has abandoned all violence in sports," he said.

All Japan Judo Federation (AJJF) head of training Kazuo Yoshimura has also stepped down, apologising for not preventing the abuse.

"I would like to make a heartfelt apology for my poor supervision," said Yoshimura at a press conference today.

Fifteen female athletes coached by Sonoda complained to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) over abuse that the national head coach subjected them to.

160451711Japanese women's judo head coach Ryuji Sonoda stepped down last week after it emerged that he had physically abused his athletes

President of the International Judo Federation (IJF), Marius Vizer, condemned Sonoda's actions in a statement, saying: "It has nothing to do with the spirit and philosophy of judo taught by the founding master of our sport, Master Jigoro Kano,"

The statement went on to say: "Judo is a method to develop the physical and mental capacities, whose primary concern is to maintain the health and integrity (physical and mental) of the participants."

"Any action that goes against these principles are banned.

"The IJF will therefore take all necessary measures."

The scandal comes as Tokyo makes its final push in its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, but JOC president and Tokyo 2020 bid chief Tsunekazu Takeda has dismissed talk that it may have a detrimental effect on their bid.

"In response to the problem, the head coach is being changed and I believe the Judo Federation will quickly move forward with its internal reform," he said.

The national reputation of the sport is currently in tatters as on top of the abuse saga, Japan's two-time Olympic judo champion Masato Uchishiba was convicted of raping a teenage girl whilst serving as a coach at the Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare and was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

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