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Japan: ‘Violence and abuse are too often a part of the child athlete’s experience’ — report

Released Monday, the report includes 56 interviews with current and former athletes in at least 16 sports, as well as an online survey with 757 responses from current and former athlete children.

In the poll – conducted between March and June of this year – more than half of respondents reported direct experiences of physical violence while participating in sport, including 175 athletes aged 24 or younger with recent experiences or continuous violence.

“Participation in sport must provide children with the joy of playing and an opportunity for physical and mental development and growth,” the report begins.

“In Japan, however, violence and abuse are too often part of the experience of the child athlete. As a result, sport has been a cause of pain, fear and distress for far too many Japanese children. “

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“ I’ve been hit so many times that I can’t count ”

The title of the report, “I’ve been hit so many times that I can’t count”, is taken from the account of a 23-year-old baseball player, licensed to use a pseudonym, who says he was hit by a coach and started bleeding in front of his team while playing in college.

In another account, a former professional basketball player – also a pseudonym – said that teammates were hit every day as part of her high school team between the mid to late 2000s and that “the coach was pulling my hair out. and kicked me. . I was so struck [on my face] that I had bruises … spilling blood. “

The report was released in the week that Tokyo was originally scheduled to host the Olympics before the Games were postponed until next year amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Sport can bring benefits such as health, scholarships and careers, but too often victims of abuse suffer and suffer from despair,” said Takuya Yamazaki, a sports lawyer on the Executive Committee of the World Players Association. , in a press release linked to the report.

“One of the reasons it’s so difficult to deal with cases of abuse is that athletes are not encouraged to speak up.

“The difficulty is that most national federations are run by former athletes or people in the sports industry. They are really reluctant to say anything against established coaches.”

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HRW has called for reform in the way sport is trained in Japan, including a ban on all forms of abuse by coaches against child athletes.

The organization claims in the report that the reforms against violence in sport made in 2013 and 2019 failed to “adequately or specifically address the abuse of child sportsmen, and neither are legally binding. which raises questions about their effectiveness and efficiency. “

He added, “Taking decisive action to protect child athletes will send a message to Japanese children that their health and well-being matters, warn abusive coaches that their behavior will no longer be tolerated, and serve as a role model for how other countries should end child abuse in sport. “

Japanese sports organizations have yet to comment publicly on the report.

In April 2013, the Japan Sports Association, the Japan Disabled Sports Association, the Japan High School Athletics Federation, the Nippon Junior High School Physical Culture Association and the Japanese Olympic in April Committee (JOC) published a “Joint Declaration on the Elimination of Violence in Sport”.

In the statement, the five organizations reaffirmed “the meaning and values ​​of sport at a time when society grapples with the problem of violence in sport. This statement represents our strong resolve to eliminate violence in sport. in Japan”.

In a statement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) took note of the report.

“Harassment and abuse [are] is unfortunately part of society and also intervenes in sport, ”said the IOC.

“The IOC stands alongside all athletes, everywhere in the world, to declare that abuses of any kind are contrary to the values ​​of Olympism, which calls for respect for everyone in sport.

“All members of society are equal in their right to respect and dignity, just as all athletes have the right to a safe sporting environment – just, fair and free from all forms of harassment and abuse.”

In 2018, Japanese police reported the alleged abuse of a record 80,104 minors to child protection authorities – a 22.4% increase from the previous year and the highest number since comparable data became available in 2004.
The New National Stadium, the main stadium of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (CR) are pictured on July 24, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
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Not just unique to Japan

Allegations of abusive training practices in the sport are not unique to Japan.

Last month, South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon committed suicide at the age of 22.

Following Choi’s death, his teammates from the Gyeongju Town Hall triathlon team spoke of the “habitual physical and verbal abuse” that they said existed in the team. A coach and team captain have since been banned for life from the sport, denying all allegations of abuse.

Also last month, more than 120 alleged victims of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, the disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor, sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting a copy of a report on the FBI’s handling of its investigation. on Nassar.

The DOJ Inspector General’s office said victims and the public should be assured the findings will be made public upon completion of an investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Nasser case.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after hundreds of women and girls said he sexually abused them for two decades under the guise of providing medical treatment.

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