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Judo chief Uemura hints at resignation

Kyodo

Haruki Uemura, the beleaguered chairman of the All Japan Judo Federation, hinted Monday he is willing to step down from his post in the coming months after the completion of his mission to reform the scandal-tainted body.

“I stated in my opening remarks to the board of directors that if reforms and our project to improve the organization are put in place, I will resign at that point,” Uemura told a press conference that followed the federation’s executive board meeting.

“This should come in the next four to five months,” he said.

After receiving a damning report from a third-party investigation into the AJJF’s misappropriation of funds at the end of April, Uemura said he would resign by a June 11 meeting of the federation’s board of directors.

However, the chairman later recanted, saying he was waiting for the investigators’ final report, which was discussed in Monday’s extraordinary meeting at Tokyo’s Kodokan.

At the meeting, the AJJF also decided to propose the appointment of the first three female directors on its board, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Ryoko Tani who is currently a member of the House of Councilors.

House of Councilors member Seiko Hashimoto, chairwoman of the Japan Skating Federation, will act as an outside board member. The proposals are expected to be formally ratified at the executive council meeting on Tuesday.

The final report by the third party investigating misappropriation of funds has said that 27 coaches received illegal payments to the tune of ¥36.2 million.

The trainers received subsidies provided by the Japan Sports Council from fiscal 2007 onward during periods where they did not actually train any athletes.

Uemura clung to his position after a physical abuse scandal rocked the federation in January and led to the resignation of the manager of the national women’s team and another coach.

“I made the decision this morning. It is important to get the reforms on track, and it will take some time in preparation to move toward a new framework. The board of directors meeting in October will be the main target. I’d like to continue in some capacity to be involved with judo,” Uemura said.

Uemura stressed not wanting to leave the federation in disarray by resigning now. “If I just throw in the towel now, it would cause a lot of confusion. I want the next generation to be able seize the reins,” he said.

There was no debate on who will be Uemura’s successor, but former Olympic gold medalist Yasuhiro Yamashita, who has assumed the responsibility of eradicating abuse within the AJJF and will join the new board of directors this August, appears to be a likely candidate.

“Over the next five or 10 years, we would like to make efforts to regain the trust of the people in judo. The chairman will have the responsibility of laying the groundwork,” said Yamashita.