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JOC tackles in-depth interrogation of female judoka

Kyodo

The Japanese Olympic Committee said Tuesday it has debriefed at least 11 of the 15 female judo wrestlers who lodged a joint complaint accusing their former coach of physical and verbal violence.

JOC executive member Yosuke Fujiwara said the interviews of the women, which have taken some 17 hours, have delved into the specific types of violence that occurred. The JOC’s investigation is scheduled to conclude on March 12 after the accused, former coach Ryuji Sonoda, and other judo coaches involved are questioned.

“We have looked into keys points like the concrete facts involving violence, when, where and who it was against,” Fujiwara said at a news conference. “We have been splitting them into groups of two or three people, and multiple members have carried out the questioning.”

JOC executive board member Kiichiro Matsumaru said he was committed to protecting the whistleblowers’ futures.

“These 15 wrestlers became seriously concerned about judo’s national team, and they lodged a protest to the JOC. They are athletes who demonstrate incredible autonomy, and we cannot allow their futures to be ruined.”

Based on results of the investigation, the JOC will propose punishments targeted at the All Japan Judo Federation at a review board of its member federations on March 14 before a decision is rendered at its executive board meeting on March 19.

Nobuyoshi Tsujiguchi, a lawyer representing the 15 women, said the same day that a request from a third-party committee commissioned by the AJJF to also interview the women has been turned down — apparently because the women fear reprisals.

“There seems to be a feeling that there might be tangible or intangible reprisals,” Tsujiguchi said.

The AJJF’S third-party committee said it plans to expand its questioning to male wrestlers, national team coaches and trainers.

Former Prosecutor General Haruo Kasama, who heads the third-party committee, said that many of the women are distrustful of the body, even though it is independent of the AJJF.

“We are a separate organization from the judo federation, but many of the athletes are unwilling to understand this,” Kasama said.