• Kyodo


A Japanese Olympic Committee investigation has concluded that 15 elite female judoka suffered a “grave injustice” from the physical and verbal abuse inflicted by former national team coach Ryuji Sonoda, sources said.

Although the extent of Sonoda’s depravity only recently began to emerge, a report compiled by the JOC starkly paints him as a sadist who would routinely smack the women across the face and brandish a whip or stick during training sessions to intimidate them.

While physically threatening his charges, Sonoda, who resigned Feb. 1 after the scandal broke, would scream insults at them, such as: “You’re the same as barn animals if you can’t move unless I give you a beating.”

He also called them pigs and mocked them as “ugly,” it said.

Drafted by the emergency project team set up by the JOC to probe the allegations, the report also states the 15 judoka, some of whom competed in the London Olympics, were forced to appear in tournaments and show up for training camps even when injured.

The JOC investigators interviewed the women for more than 20 hours and grilled seven coaches for over 17 hours. The All Japan Judo Federation also commissioned an independent third-party panel to question the judoka, but they refused.

Based on their findings, the JOC will debate how to punish the judo federation at an executive board meeting Tuesday.

Kazuhiko Tokuno, assistant coach to the national team, and Kazuo Yoshimura, head of development for the AJJF, both quit in February to take responsibility for the scandal. The report revealed that, while practicing mat techniques, Tokuno covered the mouth of one woman and dangled a dead insect around her body to scare her.

The report lists 13 points for the JOC to consider in advising the judo federation how to clean up its act. They include the requirement that the AJJF build trust via dialogue, establish a coach qualification system, introduce periodic workshops and have physicians accompany athletes to training and tournaments.

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