The Coach Of The Japanese Women’s National Judo Team Admits To Beating Athletes

Ryuji Sonoda admitted to regularly beating his judokas with wooden sticks during training.

Shizuo Kambayashi / AP

Tokyo hopes to host the 2020 Olympic Games, but a shocking story about the Japanese national judo team has has cast a pall over the nation’s sporting image. Leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, 15 female Japanese judokas were regularly slapped in the face and beaten with wooden sticks by national team coach Ryuji Sonoda, who admitted to the abuse after a tipster notified the All Japan Judo Federation. Though the victims remain unnamed, some of the judokas participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics, where the Japanese women’s team took three medals. Sonoda initially distanced himself from the allegations and told Kyodo News on Jan. 30, 2013, that “until now I have been doing things the way I saw fit, but I will mend the things that need fixing.” On the following day, Sonoda offered the following apology to press and formally resigned from his position.

I would like to deeply apologize for causing trouble to all the people concerned with what I have done and said. I think it will be difficult for me to continue being engaged in the training program any longer. I wish to submit my resignation.

Despite admitting his guilt, Sonoda is not facing criminal charges, according to Inside The Games, with the All Japan Judo Federation simply stating that they will “face a harsher punishment if a similar incident happens in the future.” The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, vowed “prompt internal reform.”

The scandal was just the first in the last week for the Japanese judo program; on Friday, two-time Olympic gold medalist Masato Uchishiba was sentenced to five years in jail for raping a teenage member of a college judo club.

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