In a case that is rocking Japan’s sports culture, one of its heroes is currently behind bars on very serious rape charges.
Masato Uchishiba, 34, has been arrested for raping a member of a women’s college judo team he was coaching. Masato is best known for his spectacular gold-medal victories in judo at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games, and is a sports celebrity in Japan. He is pleading not guilty and maintaining that the encounter was consensual, a claim that does not tally well at all with the student’s account. Channel News Asia reports:
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.
If true, this case is a stain on the reputation of a sport that has long prided itself on a certain gentility and honor. Controversy is likely to erupt among fans, between defenders of their hero’s image and those who have no patience with apologists. It remains to be seen how this, in combination with other recent scandals, will affect the reputation of judo in Japan and around the world.