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All Japan Judo Federation establishes advisory committee

Kyodo

The All Japan Judo Federation announced on Thursday the formation of a third-party advisory committee to handle crisis management in the wake of a whistle-blowing scandal in which 15 top female judo wrestlers accused their former coach of physical and verbal abuse.

Haruo Kasama, 65, a former prosecutor general, will head up the committee. Other members will include Japan Football Association vice president Kozo Tashima, 55, professor of psychiatry at Rikkyo University Rika Kayama, 52, Pierre Flamand, 41, a Keio University judo coach and a former judoka for the French national team, and karate expert Yuko Takahashi, 32.

The committee, which will provide advice to the AJJF on how to verify cases of abuse as well as lay out suggestions for reforms, is scheduled to meet next Tuesday and again on March 1 and 8.

On the same day at the Ajinomoto National Training Center, the Japanese Olympic Committee held an emergency coaches meeting among the national sporting bodies for those responsible for team development.

Hitoshi Saito, who is in charge of team development for the AJJF, apologized and expressed his determination to make a fresh start.

“We have caused a lot of trouble. We have to change our ways of thinking and start with a new way of coaching,” Saito said.

JOC executive director Noriyuki Ichihara explained details of the joint complaint from the women, who accused head coach Ryuji Sonoda of violence before he stepped down early this month.

“We would like to develop a national campaign aimed at rooting out violent coaching,” said Ichihara in addressing all of the national sporting bodies.

Akari Ogata, who returned to Japan the same day after coming second in the women’s 78-kg class at the Paris Grand Slam, made reference to the subject of abuse in judo for the first time.

“I was able to focus on my matches as usual. There has been a lot of turmoil over this, but things are moving in a good direction. It will be best if an environment is created where it makes it easier for us to practice judo,” she said.

Ogata said she purposely did not view the Internet while she was abroad to avoid the agitation. Asked about coaching staff who resigned and had to return home during the trip, she said, “It couldn’t be helped. A lot of things went on.”

Megumi Tachimoto, who won the title in Paris in the over 78-kg class, said she was not bothered at all. “There was nothing special,” she said. ” I really was able to prepare for my matches as usual. I wasn’t bothered.”