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Human Rights Watch Reveals Widespread Abuse of Japanese Child Athletes

FILE - A man wearing a face mask walks passed a billboard with the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan, April 2, 2020.

A new report by Human Rights Watch has outlined physical, verbal and even sexual abuses allegedly suffered by child athletes in Japan.

Investigators say they uncovered numerous incidents of young athletes being punched, kicked, slapped, choked or struck with various objects and deprived of food and water, along with sexual abuse and harassment. They say the abuses led to victims suffering from depression, physical disabilities, lifelong trauma, and in a handful of cases, suicides.

There was no comment from Japan’s Olympic Committee.

The report, titled, “I Was Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count,” says one instance of suicide involved a 17-year-old high school basketball player in Osaka who suffered repeated physical abuse at the hands of his coach.

The report from HRW comes seven years after Japanese sports authorities vowed to end the practice of corporal punishment in youth sports known as “taibatsu,” after allegations surfaced amid Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The report was based on interviews with 50 athletes from across several sports, as well as more than 700 athletes who participated in an online survey, including Olympians and Paralympians. The report was released the day the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — which have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic — were due to begin.

“As Japan prepares to host the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo in July 2021,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, “the global spotlight brings a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change laws and policies in Japan and around the world to protect millions of child athletes.”