INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – The Japanese Olympic Committee said Saturday swimmer Naoya Tomita has been expelled from Japan’s team competing at the 17th Asian Games for a serious breach of discipline after admitting to stealing a camera belonging to a South Korean media organization.
Local police questioned Tomita over the alleged theft on Friday night. He has confessed to the crime and papers are expected to be sent to prosecutors over the weekend.
According to the JOC, Tomita, 25, stole a camera left at poolside by a South Korean reporter near the medals podium at the Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center while waiting for a teammate to finish practice.
He reportedly removed the telescopic camera lens and placed the camera in a bag before exiting the venue. The stolen camera reportedly cost 8 million won (about ¥830,000) and was discovered in the athletes’ village.
In a confession, Tomita, who placed fourth in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke on Wednesday, said, “When I saw the camera, I really had to have it.”
The JOC said Tomita, who won the gold medal in the men’s 200 breaststroke at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, was caught on video surveillance stealing the camera. Tomita was eliminated in the heats in the men’s 50-meter breaststroke on Friday morning.
At a press conference on Saturday, Japan chef de mission Tsuyoshi Aoki apologized for Tomita’s conduct on behalf of the Japan delegation.
Neither he nor JOC headquarters official Naoya Yanagiya gave a motive for the crime, other than Tomita’s confession.
“He didn’t have a race that day. He practiced for (the 100-meter breaststroke) for about an hour, did his stretches. He was waiting for his teammate to finish his swimming practice (when it happened),” Yanagiya said.
He said Tomita has apologized and added a police investigation of Tomita had concluded. He remains in the athletes’ village.
“His name has been stricken from Japan’s team and once the decision is made in the investigation, we will take the next step,” said Yanagiya, adding that Tomita will have to pay his own fare home.
Japan Swimming Federation director Masafumi Izumi said he was shocked by the incident and promised a stern punishment.
“I am shocked that this would happen even though the Japan team is making such great efforts in swimming,” Izumi said. “We intend to deal with him severely.”
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