Tokyo: Japan will not send Kento Momota to the 2016 Rio Olympics despite qualified for the tournament by being the men’s singles World No. 2 at the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings.
Despite tearful pleas for mercy from his teammate Kenichi Tago, the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) has decided on Sunday to suspend Olympic medal prospect Kento Momota from competition indefinitely for gambling at an illegal casino. The badminton’s governing body in Japan, will also strip Momota of his status as a certified member of the national team. Kenichi Tago who was also found guilty of placing illegal bets, was removed from the organization’s official player list for an indefinite period.
The 21-year-old World No. 2 Momota and his teammate former World No. 3 Kenichi Tago, had admitted to gambling at an underground casino, which is considered illegal under Japanese law.
Both Momota and Tago are athletes sponsored by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corporation (NTT East Corp) and are considered employees belonging to the company’s badminton team. According to a statement released from the NTT East team, Kenichi Tago has invited Kento Momota to the casino for about six times from October 2014 to January 2015 and Momota had lost a total of around ¥500,000 (£3,248/$4,632/€4,057).
By the same token, former World No. 3 Kenichi Tago who had a more serious gambling addiction, was reportedly lost roughly ¥10 million (£65,000/$93,000/€81,000) in as many as 60 visits to that illegal casino in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.
Besides being kicked off Japan’s national badminton team, bad news continued for both Kento Momota and Kenichi Tago as NTT East Corp has fired Kenichi Tago directly from the company, while Kento Momota was suspended from the company for 30 days for their violations, effective immediately. The termination and suspension are costing both players around ¥4 to ¥5 million per year.
Momota who became Japan’s first men’s singles player to win a bronze medal at the world championships in Jakarta last year, was expected to win a singles medal in the Rio Olympics this coming August.
Besides badminton, another betting scandal has also sent shockwaves through the country’s most popular sport, baseball. Three top executives at Japan’s oldest and most prestigious baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, were forced to step down after a several players admitted to betting on baseball games.