• Kyodo


A former player on Toyota Motor Corp.’s Top League rugby team has been given a suspended prison term for possessing drugs, just days after a similar ruling was handed down on a former teammate.

The Okazaki branch of the Nagoya District Court on Monday sentenced Steven Yates, 36, to two years in prison, suspended for three years. Prosecutors had demanded 30 months behind bars.

The court branch last Thursday sentenced another former Verblitz player, Ryota Kabashima, to 14 months in prison, suspended for three years, for possession of about 1 gram of cocaine that Yates had provided.

Yates was indicted in July after he was found in possession of about 5.7 grams of cocaine and 0.7 gram of marijuana at his home on June 27. His name surfaced during the investigation into the case involving Kabashima, who was arrested June 20.

Judge Hiromitsu Ukai said in handing down the ruling that Yates had admitted to having used cannabis before coming to Japan, and having used cocaine during the offseason since October 2016. He said he had bought the cocaine from smugglers.

Yates, who obtained Japanese nationality in 2015, has a “deep connection to illegal drugs,” Ukai said.

But the judge credited Yates for pleading guilty and promising to undergo rehabilitation in his native New Zealand as a reason for handing down a suspended sentence.

Toyota dismissed Kabashima and Yates following their indictment.

The automaker suspended the team’s activities following Kabashima’s arrest and later announced it will resume training in November.

The arrests came as Japan was preparing to host the Rugby World Cup, which started Sept. 20 and will end in November.

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