INCHEON: Disgraced swimmer Naoya Tomita was “not in his usual mental state” when he stole a journalist’s camera at the Asian Games, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) said Saturday.
Tomita, who was expelled and fined one million won ($950) for taking the camera at a competition pool, was quoted by Japanese media as saying “I didn’t do it” when he left South Korea this week.
According to officials, the 25-year-old made a full confession to police when detained after being identified from closed circuit TV cameras at the pool.
“I read in the media that he said he didn’t do it but I don’t think he was in his usual mental state,” Japan’s chef de mission Tsuyoshi Aoki told a press conference.
“The context of the question and his answer are unclear so it’s not correct to comment,” he added.
The theft “happened in a flash, an act of impulse — like the devil got a hold of him. But that doesn’t excuse what he did.
“He is an adult and acted on his own volition, and as such is responsible for his own actions.
“He broke the team’s code of conduct and we deeply apologise for the trouble caused to the Japanese people, to officials and to the organising committee,” Aoki said.
Tomita was expelled from Japan’s delegation and told to pay for his own air ticket home after admitting to stealing the $7,600 camera, belonging to a journalist for a South Korean news agency.
Swimming officials are expected to make a final decision on Tomita’s punsishment later this month.
The Japanese delegation air-brushed over reports of broken elevators, a lack of hot water and complaints about the food in the athletes’ village to declare themselves happy with their performance after finishing third in the medal table behind China and host nation South Korea.
“We have always seen future stars come through at the Asian Games,” said Aoki, looking towards the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“And we have seen signs here too. We had (marathon runner) Naoko Takahashi at the 1998 Bangkok Games and (swimmer) Kosuke Kitajima in 2002. The new generation will carry the expectations of a nation.”
Swimming star Kosuke Hagino has been Japan’s standout performer with a haul of seven medals, including four golds.
He produced a shock win over China’s Olympic champion Sun Yang in the men’s 200 metres freestyle.