Four Japanese basketball players were sent home from the Asian Games in disgrace for paying prostitutes for sex as the regional Olympics was hit by scandal on Monday.
The players were spotted in a notorious red light district of Jakarta in their national jerseys, JOC officials said, adding that the four had been ordered to leave immediately.
News that Yuya Nagayoshi, Takuya Hashimoto, Takuma Sato, Keita Imamura had been booted out will come as a major embarrassment for Japan, who will host the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time.
“I just feel a sense of shame,” Japan’s chef de mission Yasuhiro Yamashita told reporters. “We deeply apologise and intend to give the athletes thorough guidance from now on.”
The basketball players had dinner after leaving the Games village last Thursday and are believed to have been solicited by a pimp to go to a hotel with women, Yamashita added.
They “paid for the services of prostitutes”, Yamashita said, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency.
The story broke after the four, who play in Japan’s B-League, were spotted in the red light district by a reporter for Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
“I would like to humbly apologise to the Japanese public, the JOC and everyone who supports basketball for this deplorable incident,” Japan basketball chief Yuko Mitsuya said in a statement.
“We will decide on the appropriate punishment for the four players once we have heard all the facts. We need to work harder to make sure this kind of scandal does not happen again.”
At the last Asian Games in 2014, Japan were forced to send home swimmer Naoya Tomita after he was caught on video stealing a journalist’s camera from the pool deck.
The basketball scandal happened after Japan beat Qatar 82-71 to go top of Group C. Japan were bronze medallists at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
It is far from being the first case of sexual misconduct at a major multisports event, which typically draw thousands of athletes, officials and fans from around the world.
At the 2014 Asian Games, an Iranian official was kicked out for the verbal sexual harassment of a female volunteer, and a Palestinian footballer was accused of groping a female worker at the athletes’ village.
In April, at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, a Mauritian official was accused of sexually assaulting a female athlete during a photo shoot.
Major events around the world are believed to trigger a boom in prostitution and athletes’ villages are often stocked with free condoms — about 225,000 at the Commonwealth Games.
Organisers say about 18,000 athletes and officials are visiting Jakarta and co-host city Palembang for the Asian Games, a regional Olympics featuring 40 sports.