Ex-Olympian jailed for rape

TOKYO, Feb 1, (AFP): A double Olympic judo gold medallist was jailed in Japan Friday for raping a student, capping a terrible week for the sport after claims a national coach beat athletes with a bamboo sword. Masato Uchishiba was sentenced to five years in prison for the assault on a teenage member of a college judo club he was coaching, a court official said, after she drunkenly fell asleep in a Tokyo hotel.
Uchishiba, 34, was feted as a national hero after bringing home a gold medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics, an achievement he repeated at the 2008 Beijing Games. Prosecutors said the incident occurred in September 2011, when the women’s judo club from Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare had been on a visit to Tokyo.

After a night of drinking and karaoke, the teenager, whose exact age was not given but who was believed to have been 18 or 19 at the time, fell asleep in her hotel room and awoke to find Uchishiba raping her.
“When she became aware, she resisted by saying, ‘What are you doing? Stop.’ But he turned up the volume of the television and covered her mouth with his hand,” prosecutors said, according to NHK. The victim is not being identified publicly because of the nature of the crime. Married Uchishiba pleaded not guilty and maintained throughout the trial that the sex with the teenage student had been consensual.


Uchishiba on Friday said in court he would appeal the decision. The verdict comes after a torrid week for judo, in which the coach of the national women’s team resigned after admitting claims that he beat his athletes with a bamboo sword were “more or less true”. Ryuji Sonoda, who took the team to the London Olympics, acknowledged allegations of violence against his charges, including face-slapping and verbal abuse. Sonoda, a 39-year-old former world judo champion, told a tightly-packed press conference: “I would like to deeply apologise for causing trouble to all the athletes and people concerned with what I have done and said.”

The media storm that engulfed judo, a popular sport in Japan that is usually a reliable source of Olympic medals, comes as Tokyo launches its international campaign for the right to host the 2020 Games.
The nation’s education and sports minister on Thursday ordered swift action to contain a scandal that observers say could badly dent Japan’s chances of beating Istanbul and Madrid for the 2020 Olympiad.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Olympic chief vowed Friday to stamp out the physical abuse of athletes by coaches after claims female judokas were beaten with bamboo swords threatened to cast a cloud over Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Games.


Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) president Tsunekazu Takeda, who is also the Tokyo bid chief, told AFP in an interview he had ordered swift action to avoid any contamination of the bid.
“We are seeking prompt internal reform,” said Takeda.
“The JOC takes it upon itself to eliminate violence from sport as advocated by the Olympic Charter,” he added. “We will be trying to restore public trust in sport and work to prevent the (Olympic) bid from being affected.”
Takeda’s comments come after Ryuji Sonoda resigned as head of Japan’s women’s judo team after 15 of his athletes, including some who competed in last year’s London Olympics, accused him of repeated physical and emotional abuse.
The furore that erupted sparked fears that Tokyo’s 2020 bid could be snared at a time organisers were readying for a visit by International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors evaluating bids by Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid.


The JOC set up a task force to investigate the allegations and work out counter-measures against corporal punishment, a practice widely seen as a way of life for many sports over decades. Asked if the judo scandal could give IOC members a negative image of sport in Japan and curb public support for Tokyo’s bid, Takeda was bullish. “In response to the problem, the head coach is being changed and I believe the judo federation will quickly move forward with its internal reform,” he said. The 100-plus IOC members will vote to choose the 2020 host city on September 7 in Buenos Aires. Education and sports minister Hakubun Shimomura urged sports bosses to get a handle on the problem of physical abuse before the IOC inspectors visit Tokyo March 4-7.


“There is a need to take resolute action in order to convince the international community that the problem of violence in sport has been completely eliminated before the visit,” he told reporters. The scandal emerged just weeks after a Japanese high school student killed himself following repeated physical abuse from his basketball coach. Japan has been especially shocked by this week’s events, with judo, a home-grown martial art, long being the main source of Olympic gold medals for the country.
The Swiss-based International Judo Federation has condemned the abuse in a statement: “It has nothing to do with the spirit and philosophy of judo taught by the founding master of our sport, Master Jigoro Kano.”

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