Basketball

Japanese basketball players punished for soliciting sex

Kyodo

The Japanese Olympic Committee has penalized four players on the men’s Asian Games basketball team for buying sex in Jakarta and sent them back home, a senior official said Monday.

Japanese delegation chief Yasuhiro Yamashita, speaking at a news conference in the Indonesian capital, said the players were stripped Sunday of their membership of the national team as their conduct violated the committee’s rules.

The B. League players — Yuya Nagayoshi, 27, Takuya Hashimoto, 23, Takuma Sato, 23, and Keita Imamura, 22 — left Jakarta early Monday morning to return to Japan, according Yamashita, who led a record-high 762-athlete delegation to the Asian Games, the world’s biggest multisport event after the Olympics.

This is the latest in a spate of scandals that have tarnished the image of the Japanese sports world as the country gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The four players went out from the athletes’ village after 10 p.m. on Thursday to have dinner, and later that night they “paid for the services of prostitutes,” Yamashita said.

Following their team’s 82-71 win over Qatar the same day, the players first went to a Japanese restaurant in a major entertainment district, called Block M in the city, wearing their team uniforms.

After dinner and drinking, they left and were approached by a tout on the street who introduced them to women from another shop, whom they brought to a nearby hotel and conducted “inappropriate acts” with.

“This action violated the national team’s code of conduct . . . and it betrayed the expectations of Japanese citizens,” Yamashita said. “As the chief of the delegation, it is very regrettable and I deeply apologize from the bottom my heart,” he said.

He quoted one of the players as saying that they put their official sportswear on as required before they left the village as they initially intended to just have dinner.

The remaining eight players on the Japanese basketball team will continue to participate in the tournament running through Sept. 1. There will be no substitutes for the four ousted players.

Yuko Mitsuya, head of the Japan Basketball Association, released a statement saying that their behavior is “unspeakable as athletes representing Japan,” and “there is no room to make excuses for their inconsiderate acts.”

The JOC’s rules stipulate that athletes must follow the national team’s code of conduct when competing in multisport events. Since sports activities are financed by taxpayers’ money, athletes should keep in mind that they have to act as “model citizens” even when they are away from their competitions.

Japan’s sports community has been rocked by scandals in recent months, ranging from a university American football player’s intentional dangerous tackle of an opponent to the former head of the amateur boxing body’s connections with an organized crime syndicate.

Earlier this month, Japan Amateur Boxing Federation President Akira Yamane stepped down amid allegations of wrongdoing, including pressuring referees to fix matches and the misuse of grant money.

During the previous 2014 Asian Games in the South Korean city of Incheon, a Japanese swimmer stole a camera belonging to a South Korean media outlet and was expelled from the national team.