TOKYO (AFP) – World judo champion Shohei Ono has been suspended from his university for physically abusing junior members of the judo squad, an official said Friday, reigniting controversy over violence in Japanese sport.
The episode is yet more bad news for a sport that has been dogged in recent years by scandal.
The official at Tenri University, which has produced several Olympic and world judo gold medallists, said that Ono and four other fourth-year teammates had been suspended for 30 days for smacking and/or kicking freshmen members of the team.
Seven others were also disciplined.
Team captain Ono, 21, who won the 73-kilogramme title at last month's world championships in Rio de Janeiro, was found to have slapped a freshman twice after training in May.
Japan's judo governing body was scheduled to convene a meeting of its disciplinary committee next Wednesday to decide punishment for the judokas.
"I apologise for my act of slapping at a time when the All Japan Judo Federation is trying to eliminate physical violence in the sport," Ono said in a statement. "I wish to start anew and become a mature member of society."
In late July, Haruki Uemura resigned as head of the judo federation after the sport suffered a series of scandals including abusive coaching, sexual harassment and misuse of funds.
Japan's judo community was rocked last January when it emerged the coach of the national women's team was found to have beaten athletes, sometimes using a bamboo sword, calling his charges "ugly" and telling them to "die" in the run-up to the London Olympics.
In April, judo officials were accused of improperly receiving government coaching subsidies.
The federation expelled one of its directors for life in June following the revelation that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a female athlete in 2011.