(updates with resignation)
* Coach accused of beating Olympians steps down
* Resignation comes after sports minister calls for new inquiry
Jan 31 (Reuters) - Japanese women’s Judo coach Ryuji Sonoda said he would resign on Thursday after the country’s sports minister called for a fresh inquiry into accusations of physical abuse against female judokas.
Local media reported on Tuesday that 15 athletes had sent a joint letter of complaint to the JOC after claiming they had been subjected to harassment and violence by head coach Ryuji Sonoda and his staff in the build up to the 2012 London Games.
The athletes complained of being slapped, shoved and beaten with bamboo.
“It will be difficult for me to go any further with the training of the team,” Sonoda told reporters in Tokyo as he prepared to submit his resignation to the All Japan Judo Federation.
“I deeply regret that my behaviour, words and actions have caused trouble. I thought that I would be able to maintain a trusting relationship (with the judokas), but that was my one-sided approach.”
The All Japan Judo Federation reprimanded Sonoda and his staff on Wednesday, but minister Hakubun Shimomura asked for further investigations on Thursday.
“We would like the JOC to do a fresh independent investigation into this matter,” Shimomura told JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda after meeting to discuss the allegations.
“We want you to reinvestigate the matter using international guidelines as your measure and make a proper judgment.”
Sonoda, who won gold at the 1993 world championships, was scheduled to take the squad to France for the Paris Grand Slam on Feb. 5.
Japan, birthplace of the martial art, endured one of their worst Judo medal hauls in London, taking home only one gold despite being tipped to win at least half of the 14 events.
With Tokyo shortlisted against Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympics, the Japanese bid team will be keen to avoid any negative publicity in the run up to September’s vote in Argentina.
“We will make maximum efforts to improve standards so that something like this never happens again in (Japanese) sports,” Takeda said. (Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O‘Brien)