The arrest of two-time Olympic judo champion Masato Uchishiba on suspicion of raping a female member of a judo team for which he served as a coach has come as a shock to judo fans and the sports world in general. But sport as a whole needs to examine whether it does not have a culture susceptible to giving rise to crimes.
Mr. Uchishiba won two Olympic gold medals in a row in the men’s 66-kg class — at the 2004 Athens Games and at Beijing 2008. He became a visiting professor at the Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare in Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, in January 2011 and also a coach of the university’s judo team.
On Nov. 29, the university fired him, saying that he sexually harassed a female member of the team Sept. 19 on a road trip in Tokyo. The Metropolitan Police Department arrested him Dec. 6 on suspicion of raping the woman in a Tokyo hotel after she fell asleep after drinking.
Sources told Kyodo News that after Mr. Uchishiba drank with the woman and other members of the judo team, he took her to the hotel because she had become drunk. The police suspect that he went into her room pretending to help and raped her. He claims that he and the woman had consensual sex. After his dismissal from the university, he wrote on his blog that he has questions about the disciplinary action.
Although Mr. Uchishiba has not been convicted, the sports world should take his arrest seriously. Sports associations need to write guidelines designed to prevent sexual harassment as well as bullying.
Coaches and sports leaders can learn from the guideline of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations. It says that those who become the target of sexual harassment from coaches and other leaders sometimes cannot refuse it, fearful of harming their career chances. But it warns that this should not be taken as a sign of consent.
The guideline also touches on a culture of drinking among sports players and coaches. It says that attentions must be paid to sexual harassment not only in the sporting or training environment but also during recreation, eating and drinking. In the sports world, drinking is often regarded as an important factor for team-building. But drinking not only has undesirable physical effects on athletes but also can damage the integrity of senses. Players and coaches cannot be too careful.
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