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Sports council to launch LINE app-based harassment consultation service for athletes

The LINE app logo is seen on an iPad in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Robert Sakai-Irvine)

TOKYO -- The Japan Sport Council (JSC) will begin offering consultations for athletes over the free communications app LINE, as part of efforts to rid the Japanese sports world of violence and power harassment.

The move is designed to allow athletes and others in Japanese sports a way to send a distress call quickly using a method close to hand. The JSC will test the LINE-based consultation system for a month beginning in February, with an eye to full implementation in the 2019 fiscal year beginning in April.

The organization launched an email-based consultation service for Olympic, Paralympic and other promising amateur athletes in 2014, giving victims a place to report violent incidents and power and sexual harassment. If necessary, the JSC will convene an investigative committee composed of lawyers and other experts to look into the details of a claim, and provide advice and formal advisories to athletics organizations and other parties.

However, the system has not reached many in the sports community. Between its launch and fiscal 2017, the JSC received just 19 consultations. Meanwhile, in early 2018 a major power harassment scandal involving coaches in the wrestling world came to light, as did inappropriate behavior by gymnastics coaches.

Social networking services are increasingly being used for school bullying and other consultations.

"There is one local government using SNS for junior high and high school bullying and suicide consultations that has received as many queries in a week over these services as they got in a whole year using a telephone hotline," Takeshi Sankawa, representative director of the Tokyo-based Social Media Counseling Association, told the Mainichi Shimbun.

(Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department)

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