• Kyodo


Women’s judo coach Ryuji Sonoda announced Thursday that he plans to resign in light of allegations that he physically abused members of the Olympic team during training.

“It will be difficult for me to go any further with the training of the team,” Sonoda said at a news conference at the Kodokan in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

He said he would submit his resignation to the All Japan Judo Federation in the near future.

It was Sonoda’s first public comments on the scandal, which broke Tuesday.

“I deeply regret that my behavior, words and actions have caused trouble,” the former world judo champion said.

“I thought that I would be able to maintain a trusting relationship, but that was a one-sided approach.”

On Tuesday, sources said that 15 top female judoka sent a joint complaint to the Japan Olympic Committee at the end of 2012 claiming they had been harassed and beaten by Sonoda and other coaching staff at a training camp ahead of to the London Olympics.

The federation confirmed the accusations, which included verbal abuse, kicking, shoving and strikes with bamboo swords.

Sonoda has been reprimanded but the federation said Wednesday it had planned to retain him.

The Metropolitan Police Department said it has opened an investigation into the allegations against Sonoda, who is a member of the MPD’s education and training division. Sonoda joined the force in 1996 and was dispatched to the judo federation in 2004.

Earlier Thursday, sports minister Hakubun Shimomura requested that the JOC launch another inquiry into the circumstances surrounding accusations of physical abuse by Sonoda.

“We would like the JOC to do a fresh independent investigation into this matter,” Shimomura told JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda upon the latter’s visit to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to explain the incidents.

Shimomura has also asked the JOC to go a step further with an investigation into other Olympic sports to uncover other possible cases of abuse.

The JOC called an emergency meeting of its directors the same day to address the matter.

Shimomura told Takeda to bear in mind the Olympic charter, which clearly prohibits physical violence in sports.

This arguably could be viewed as a political ploy as Tokyo tries to gather steam in its bid to host the 2020 Summer Games, meaning Sonoda, who won the world championships in 1993, will likely be forced to step down anyway under the eye of the International Olympic Committee.