Twenty-three directors of the All Japan Judo Federation resigned en masse to account for a number of scandals, following pressure from the government to clean up its image, as the country bids for the 2020 Olympics.
According to local media reports on Thursday, the president of the federation, Haruki Uemura, and three auditors were among the directors and executives who put in their papers.
The Yoimuri Shimbun reported that at a meeting held at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, the board of directors compiled a list of some 20 candidates to replace the vacant positions.
Uemura (62) and other top executives stepped down following the Cabinet Office ordering the federation to make wholesale changes at its executive level to account for a series of scandals that have plagued the sport and tainted Japan’s image ahead of its bid to host the Summer Games.
In January this year it came to light that the former head coach of the women’s team, Ryuji Sonoda, used violence and threatening language against athletes at a training camp, before the London Olympics.
Adding to the tainted image of the sport both here and overseas, the Tokyo District Court in February sentenced two-time Olympic judo champion Masato Uchishiba to five years in prison for raping a college student.
Uchishiba was first indicted for raping the teenager at a hotel in Tokyo in September 2011. The victim was a member of a women’s university judo club and had allegedly been drinking with Uchishiba and other members when the attack occurred and claimed Uchishiba assaulted her while she was asleep.
Uchishiba started coaching at the Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare in Kumamoto Prefecture in April 2010. He was, however, fired following claims of sexual harassment in November 2011.
Further bringing the sport into disrepute, in April it was revealed that the federation had been misusing official funds, adding pressure on Uemura to step down. The federation has appointed Shoji Muneoka, chairman and chief executive officer of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp, as its new chairman and Yasuhiro Chikaishi, former chief of the Osaka prefectural police and current adviser at Toyota Motor Corp, will serve as one of the federation’s senior director.
The judo federation will hold the first meeting of its reform committee immediately after the new leadership is officially in place to discuss reform of the board of trustees.