Judo coach to resign over alleged beatings

Sonoda admits training approach before games was 'one-sided'


Women’s judo coach Ryuji Sonoda announced Thursday that he plans to resign in light of allegations that he physically abused members of the Olympic team during training.

“It will be difficult for me to go any further with the training of the team,” Sonoda said at a news conference at the Kodokan in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

He said he would submit his resignation to the All Japan Judo Federation in the near future.

It was Sonoda’s first public comments on the scandal, which broke Tuesday.

“I deeply regret that my behavior, words and actions have caused trouble,” the former world judo champion said.

“I thought that I would be able to maintain a trusting relationship, but that was a one-sided approach.”

On Tuesday, sources said that 15 top female judoka sent a joint complaint to the Japan Olympic Committee at the end of 2012 claiming they had been harassed and beaten by Sonoda and other coaching staff at a training camp ahead of to the London Olympics.

The federation confirmed the accusations, which included verbal abuse, kicking, shoving and strikes with bamboo swords.

Sonoda has been reprimanded but the federation said Wednesday it had planned to retain him.

The Metropolitan Police Department said it has opened an investigation into the allegations against Sonoda, who is a member of the MPD’s education and training division. Sonoda joined the force in 1996 and was dispatched to the judo federation in 2004.

Earlier Thursday, sports minister Hakubun Shimomura requested that the JOC launch another inquiry into the circumstances surrounding accusations of physical abuse by Sonoda.

“We would like the JOC to do a fresh independent investigation into this matter,” Shimomura told JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda upon the latter’s visit to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to explain the incidents.

Shimomura has also asked the JOC to go a step further with an investigation into other Olympic sports to uncover other possible cases of abuse.

The JOC called an emergency meeting of its directors the same day to address the matter.

Shimomura told Takeda to bear in mind the Olympic charter, which clearly prohibits physical violence in sports.

This arguably could be viewed as a political ploy as Tokyo tries to gather steam in its bid to host the 2020 Summer Games, meaning Sonoda, who won the world championships in 1993, will likely be forced to step down anyway under the eye of the International Olympic Committee.

  • Equalizer

    So That’s it?!? Not only is he NOT arrested but he is allowed to resign, no doubt in the hope that the incident is forgotten and he can escape jail…If the justice does not seize this case, it will put the credibility of the Justice Minister and, possibly, that of the new Prime Minister in jeopardy. Not to mention that the message that will be perceived is that coaches can abuse athletes, especially if they are females, in total impunity. Japanese Media keep referring this incident as a case of “power harassment” instead of calling it what it really is: Assault. Plain and simple. Disgraceful! No wonder why bullying is a national sport in this country. Everybody does it: teachers, sumo stable masters, judo and basketball coaches, company executives.

  • http://twitter.com/Patbiarritz Patbiarritz

    Would it be possible to give back a “severe corporal punishment” with bamboo sword for instance, and in public obviously, to Mister Takeda to give him back a part of the pain and humiliation he has inflicted to these athlets? Not only this man is to be FIRED, he has to be beaten and broken PHYSICALLY IN PUBLIC. This kind of behaviour is absolutely unforgivenable. And unfortunately Japanese people are too kind to accept and bend over systematicaly in front all of that kind of abusing behaviour.
    Any physical punishment from a teacher, trainer, coach, has to be followed by a kind of “retorsion” at last 10 equal to the pain inflicted to the victim.

  • Nida

    Sometimes the reason why malpractices are exposed is not so much to condemn the doer but to let people realize something’s got to change. It’s actually good, but I still symphatize with Sonoda because his wrongdoings got the authorities’ attention while others got away. We all make mistakes, sometimes serious ones. What’s important is to learn from them.

  • Marty

    This is so unfair. Hitting or lightly kicking Judoka, Aikidoka and pretty much every other budo is part of the training. It is designed, as this coach said, to build character and mental strength. The kicks and slaps are not intended to be hurtful. The coach has a “love” for his players and wants them to be great Judoka. Instead they repay his kindness with complaints. Alas, the Japanese spirit of “Gambatte” is lost. Young people today are mentally weak. Sonoda sensei, in my view, is a hero, a man who cares about his Judo students.