A survey by the Japanese Olympic Committee finds widespread violent conduct, sexual harassment

12% of athletes suffered abuse: poll


Nearly 12 percent of athletes surveyed by the Japanese Olympic Committee say they have been subjected to violence or sexual harassment while competing in their respective sports.

A report released by the JOC at its executive board meeting Tuesday revealed that 11.5 percent, or 206 athletes, in a survey conducted of athletes and coaches from 57 national sports federations, admitted to being bullied in some way.

The survey, the first such poll conducted by the JOC, was triggered by the joint complaint filed in January by 15 female judoka against their then-coach, Ryuji Sonoda, for subjecting them to physical and verbal abuse. The poll was sent out to 6,909 Olympic-designated athletes and coaches in the different national sports federations, with responses received from 1,798 athletes and 1,457 coaches.

The survey underscores the pervasiveness of untold violence toward top athletes in Japanese sports.

Such abuses had been long swept under the carpet, especially violence at schools, until recent sensational cases, including incidents that led to suicide. Then the judo scandal broke, and was called “the most serious crisis in Japan’s sports history” by sports minister Hakubun Shimomura.

Also Tuesday, the JOC formally ratified a measure to withhold subsidies from the All Japan Judo Federation for fiscal 2013 over the abuse scandal.

“Withholding the funds is a harsh but appropriate measure,” said JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda. “As the JOC, we want to instruct them so that such acts of violence never occur again. It is unfortunate that (the survey found) there existed these actual cases.”

Of the coaches in the sports federations who responded to the survey, 3 percent, or 43 of them, said they themselves had committed violence in some form against athletes.

Of the responding athletes, 25.5 percent, or 459, said they had either directly witnessed or heard of such abuses in their sports, while 29.1 percent of the responding coaches, or 424, said they also knew violence existed.

Sixty athletes said they had been subjected to violence while in training with their respective national teams, 118 athletes said violence occurred while they were with their affiliated corporate teams and 56 said they were bullied on a regular basis.

Before conducting the survey, when questioned by the JOC, those responsible for athlete development at all of the respective sports federations had claimed there was no evidence of violence toward top-level athletes.

JOC director Tsuyoshi Fukui, who reported the results of the survey, said it should not be taken lightly.

“We all have to recognize that we must move toward eradicating this (violence). We have to accept that these results from the survey are extremely serious,” said Fukui.

In the questionnaire format, some respondents said they do not believe violence helped improve athletic performance; others said such abuses may be harsh but sometimes helpful.