The head of the Japan Canoe Federation on Thursday briefed the Sports Agency and apologized over the drink-spiking scandal that has cast an unwanted global spotlight on Japanese kayaking.
The federation is "truly sorry for having caused such trouble," JCF President Shoken Narita said, referring to the incident in which top kayaker Yasuhiro Suzuki led teammate Seiji Komatsu to fail a doping test by lacing his drink with a steroid.
The episode, which took place at last September's national sprint canoe championships in Ishikawa Prefecture, attracted international attention after news broke earlier this week, embarrassing the Japanese sports establishment in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Sports Agency is seeking to come to grips with the incident in hopes of prevent such acts from recurring in canoeing as well as other sports.
"It is very regretful that such a thing occurred to damage how people view sports at a time when there sports are a focus of attention," Sports Agency deputy director Yuzuru Imasato said.
During an investigation by the federation, Suzuki, 32, admitted slipping the banned anabolic steroid methandianone into 25-year-old Komatsu's drink bottle at the national meet to stop him qualifying for the Olympic team and improve his own chances of selection.
The federation revealed Wednesday night that Suzuki had also admitted stealing Komatsu's paddle and hiding it at a training camp in Fukushima Prefecture.
The federation said Thursday it is putting in place a counseling system for athletes to help them cope with the psychological pressures of high-level competition.
"We want to quickly make a system that allows athletes giving their all under stress and great pressure to voice their troubles to someone in confidence," the federation's managing director, Toshihiko Furuya, said.
A specialist counselor will attend national team training camp next week.
The Japan Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday it has suspended Suzuki for eight years over the drink-spiking, while the canoe federation said it would seek to permanently ban him from competition.
A provisional ban on Komatsu stemming from the positive drug test has been lifted, but his records from the national meet, where he placed first in kayak sprint, have been nullified.
The incident is Japan's first case of an athlete failing a doping test due to someone deliberately giving them a banned substance without their knowledge, according to JADA.
Ishikawa prefectural police are conducting an investigation in response to a report filed by Komatsu over the drink-spiking and theft of equipment.
In a statement released Wednesday through his lawyer, Suzuki said he took "total responsibility" and apologized "deeply for the betrayal."