Japan’s sports minister has instructed the country’s Olympic Committee (JOC) to launch a fresh inquiry into accusations of physical abuse against female judokas by coaching staff.
Local media reported on Tuesday that 15 athletes had sent a joint letter of complaint to the JOC after claiming they had been subjected to harassment and violence by head coach Ryuji Sonoda and his staff in the build up to the 2012 London Games.
The All Japan Judo Federation reprimanded Sonoda and his staff, the report said, but minister Hakubun Shimomura asked for further investigations on Thursday with the athletes said to have complained of being slapped, shoved and beaten with bamboo.
"We would like the JOC to do a fresh independent investigation into this matter,” Shimomura told JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda after meeting to discuss the allegations.
"We want you to reinvestigate the matter using international guidelines as your measure and make a proper judgment.”
Sonoda was scheduled to take the squad to France for the Paris Grand Slam on Feb. 5 but is now expected to resign in the wake of the government calls with the JOC holding an emergency meeting.
"If you think about the situation of all of these wrestlers who have complained, it seems that coach Sonoda will have no choice but to resign,” a national team source said.
Japan, birthplace of the martial art, endured one of their worst Judo medal hauls in London, taking home only one gold despite being tipped to win at least half of the 14 events.
With Tokyo shortlisted against Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympics, the Japanese bid team will be keen to avoid any negative publicity in the run up to September’s vote in Argentina.
"We will make maximum efforts to improve standards so that something like this never happens again in (Japanese) sports,” Takeda said. - Reuters