JAKARTA -- The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) on Aug. 20 sent home four basketball players on Japan's men's national team for the Asian Games now underway here after they were found to have allegedly hired local prostitutes on Aug. 16.
The four players all belong to Japan's professional B.League. They are Takuya Hashimoto, 23, from Osaka in western Japan; Keita Imamura, 22, from Niigata in northern Japan; Takuma Sato, 23, from Shiga in western Japan; and Yuya Nagayoshi, 27, from Kyoto.
According to the JOC, the athletes visited a red-light district in the Indonesian capital on the night of Aug. 16 wearing national team uniforms. They had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and then were walking around the area when a person of Japanese descent approached them and introduced them to an establishment where women were attending customers. The players then visited a hotel with women and returned to the athletes' village for the Asian Games during the early hours of Aug. 17.
Yasuhiro Yamashita, who heads the Japanese delegation to the games, told a news conference in Jakarta on Aug. 20, "Going and buying sex late at night is impermissible. We have not confirmed if the players made payments, but perhaps that was the case." Yamashita said the nationalities and ages of the women had not been confirmed.
He said he had not heard whether local police questioned the athletes. Under local laws, hiring a prostitute is a crime punishable by imprisonment or a fine.
"I am truly sorry for what happened, and would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart," Yamashita said. "I will do my best to prevent such a thing from happening again."
The code of conduct set by the JOC states, "The cost of sending athletes is to be covered by funds from state coffers. Athletes are required not only to strive for excellence during competition but also to be role models for society even when they are away from competition."
Yamashita regarded the actions of the basketball players -- going out late at night wearing their national team uniforms and buying sex -- as violating the code. "The biggest problem is buying sex," he said. The four athletes appeared to regret what they did during interviews by JOC officials, according to the delegation chief.
The four athletes committed the questionable deeds shortly after their national team won a match against Qatar on Aug. 16, marking the first victory in the Asian Games in their second match in the elimination stage. The Japanese team, which has eight remaining players, is scheduled to face off against Hong Kong on Aug. 22. The JOC says the actions of the four athletes do not serve as grounds to suspend the entire team from their next match.
Yuko Mistuya, who heads the Japan Basketball Association, said, "Their actions are egregious and thoughtless, and there is no room for justification of them. I feel strongly about my responsibility to manage those players." The association is set to hold a news conference on the night of Aug. 20 after questioning the players.
(Japanese original by Atsushi Kurasawa and Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department)