Judoka pressed to reveal themselves

Kyodo

The representative for 15 female judoka on the national team who have alleged physical and verbal abuse revealed Wednesday the victims are considering making their names public.

The complaint lodged by the athletes, some of whom competed at last year’s London Olympics, has led to the resignation of women’s team head coach Ryuji Sonoda, assistant coach Kazuhiko Tokuno and Kazuo Yoshimura, the All Japan Judo Federation’s head of development.

“Looking at it from the standpoint of logic, we understand it would be odd to keep their names anonymous forever,” said the athletes’ representative, Nobuyoshi Tsujiguchi. “There will be discussion about whether to make their names public. It is something that must be considered.”

Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympic speed skater and cyclist and a current Diet lawmaker and executive board member of the Japanese Olympic Committee, questioned the logic behind concealing the names of the judoka.

“How does it look if an overzealous attempt to protect individuals’ privacy keeps their names from appearing?” Hashimoto asked at an Upper House session. “That is a big problem. There is a heavy responsibility to be borne for various complaints over many years.”

On Wednesday, the JOC’s special committee on women’s sports, which received the athletes’ complaint in December, reported on some of the details in the document.

“We are taking the complaint very seriously,” said committee Chairman Kaori Yamaguchi, a former world judo champion. “If there is some way to protect the careers of the athletes, then I think their names can be made public. Many of the 15 women are still competing and this could affect their careers. I think that the way things are now, (identifying them) is premature.”

The chief of the All Japan Judo Federation, Haruki Uemura, stressed that he is not interested in discovering who has alleged what in the complaint, saying, “If someone wants to come forward of her own free will, that’s fine, but I don’t want to go hunting for people’s names.”

Uemura rejected the idea that the federation is half-hearted in its promotion of women, claiming, “We will have a female director before long.”

The federation’s directors will stand for re-election in June 2014. The body’s 59 trustees include the first woman selected for that position.

Uemura is set to join other members of the International Judo Federation at the Paris Grand Slam this weekend.

“For the founding nation (of judo), this has been bad news,” he said. “I want to explain things so as not to hold back the Olympic bid (for the 2020 Games).”

“We may not be able to wipe away the negative image, but it’s my desire to ask for help (from the IJF) in limiting the damage,” he said.

Uemura will deliver a message from Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura to IJF President Marius Vizer.

In Paris, the national judo team held its first practice ahead of this weekend’s Paris Grand Slam with the women’s squad training under interim coach Masaru Tanabe.

“It went the same as usual, the same as always,” Tanabe said of the practice.

“I can’t say there hasn’t been any impact (from the scandal). But looking strictly at the adjustments they are making, everyone is doing what needs to be done. They look to be in good form.”

Yamaguchi, the JOC’s special committee head, said a key issue was insufficient trust: “A relationship of trust based on mutual respect between athlete and coach is indispensable. Some of that was missing.

  • Hiroki Sano

    Although Tujiguchi said “Looking at it from the standpoint of logic, we understand it would be odd to keep their names anonymous forever,”, I strongly disagree to this opinion. First of all, I am not sure why he wants to find out the names of the women who complained about the abuse. If I were one of the women, I would feel that I may have any pressure and punishment from the Judo organization. I think that the members of the Judo organization are just trying to prevent much more secret complaints from being revealed, and to guard their own position, not the athletes.
    Secondly, all people have the right of privacy, thus it is not uncommon to stand up to say your opinions if you get hurt physically or mentally. The committee members are afraid of losing their current status.