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Japanese Olympic Committee cuts funding for judo federation

Photo: /ZumaPress.com

Former Japanese judo head coach Ryuji Sonoda (center) was accused of harassment and physical violence.

TOKYO (AP) -- The Japanese Olympic Committee said Tuesday that it has cut funding for the All Japan Judo Federation and ordered it to take preventive measures as punishment for coaches' abusive training of female judokas.

The JOC also cancelled a $260,000 annual subsidy for the federation for this year. The JOC directive also included a ban on violent coaching, more transparency in team selections and increased hiring of female coaches, the committee said in a statement. The JOC has also established an anonymous reporting system for any violence, harassment or misconduct in sports.

A committee of JOC executives and an outside lawyer have concluded after careful review that "serious misconduct had occurred" during judo training, the JOC said in a statement. "JOC has a zero-tolerance policy for any action that runs counter to the principles of Olympism and will take further initiatives in order to promote the Olympic Movement."

The issue surfaced after 15 female judokas accused former national coaches of harassment and physical violence during training before the London Olympics.

Based on hearings of the whistleblowers, the committee said their former coach Ryuji 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, according to Japanese media reports. Sonoda resigned as coach after facing the allegation earlier this year.

The JOC aims to eliminate similar abuses as Tokyo vies to host the 2020 Games.

"There is no excuse for use of violence, no matter what. We must think how we can develop skills to coach athletes properly," JOC Secretary General Noriyuki Ichihara told reporters in announcing the directives.

Also Tuesday, the JOC revealed that 206, or 11 percent of the nearly 1,800 Olympic athletes who responded to the committee's recent survey said 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, according to NHK public television. Most commonly, coaches said use of violence as corporal punishment because of attitude problems or poor performance during competition.

Corporal punishment in Japanese sports has come under the spotlight since a Japanese high school student committed suicide in December after repeated beatings by his basketball coach.

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