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Japan criticised by Human Rights Watch after study reveals extensive abuse of athletes

July 20, 2020

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Japan criticised by Human Rights Watch after study reveals extensive abuse of athletes

A Human Rights Watch study of sport in Japan has found child athletes routinely suffer abuse from their coaches.

Human Rights Watch has released a report into Japanese sport which has revealed that child athletes suffered physical, sexual and verbal abuse from their coaches, leading to some taking their own lives. The report, named “I was hit so many times I can’t count” includes testimonies from some of the athletes who suffered the abuse with many stating they suffer from depression or lifelong trauma as a result of the abuse.

Over 50 individuals were interviewed in person whilst over 800 took part in an online questionnaire which forms the report which has been released in the week that the 2020 Olympics were originally scheduled to begin in Tokyo before the suspension until 2021 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Human Rights Watch said “Participation in sport should provide children with the joy of play, and with an opportunity for physical and mental development and growth. In Japan, however, violence and abuse are too often a part of the child athlete’s experience. As a result, sport has been a cause of pain, fear, and distress for far too many Japanese children. Athletes interviewed by Human Rights Watch described a culture of impunity for abusive coaches. Of recent child athlete interviewees who experienced abuse, all but one reported that there were no known consequences for the coach.”

Athletes from a variety of sports including both basketball and table tennis have taken their lives and left notes detailing that the abuse they suffered lead to them taking their lives, but the majority of accused coaches have received no punishment of the abuse. The report makes several recommendations to bodies in Japan on how the country can work to ensure that future athletes do not suffer the same abuse detailed in the report. These recommendations include sanctions on bodies that do not ban or punish abusive coaches, training for coaches and athletes on what is correct behaviour and ensuring law enforcement is involved in investigations into abuse.

You can read the report here.

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