TENRI, NARA PREF. – Judo put a damper on Tokyo’s Olympic euphoria as Tenri University said Wednesday a dozen students of its team, including former captain and world champion Shohei Ono, were disciplined for physically abusing underclass teammates.
Ono, who won the men’s 73-kg weight class at last month’s world championships in Rio de Janeiro, and four other seniors at the Nara Prefecture university were suspended from school for 30 days for slapping first-year students.
Five sophomores were given two-week suspensions while two freshmen were also issued reprimands as Japanese judo found yet another way to stain itself.
“I deeply regret what I’ve done,” Ono said through a statement. “I apologize for my actions, especially with the All Japan Judo Federation trying to crack down on physical abuse in the sport.”
It remains to be seen whether Ono will face further punishment by the AJJF.
Ono had only been given a warning by the school dean after being spotted at the scene of another incident in May. Four fourth-year team members were suspended from school for 30 days for slapping and otherwise abusing first-year teammates in different incidents from May to July.
Earlier this month, the school had indefinitely suspended the entire team and dismissed judo department head Shozo Fujii, manager Saburo Tosa and captain Ono.
But the AJJF, which is battling scandals of its own over violence against members of the women’s national team and the misuse of funds, demanded a more thorough investigation be conducted last weekend to see if there were any abusing incidents after Ono became captain last November, leading to the latest suspensions.
Tenri is one of Japan’s top judo schools and has produced several Olympic medalists, including former three-time champion Tadahiro Nomura and 2000 silver medalist Shinichi Shinohara, who was the former head coach of the men’s national team.