TOKYO: Four-time swimming world champion Daiya Seto has vowed to "start over" after being suspended from the sport for having an extramarital affair, reported foreign media outlets.
Seto, a bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics, was suspended by the Japan Swimming Federation for reportedly violating the governing body's standard of sportsmanlike conduct. The suspension lasts until the end of the year, Reuters and Japan Times reported.
The 26-year-old will still be eligible to compete in next year's postponed Tokyo Olympics.
He also resigned as captain of Japan's national swimming team, according to news agency reports, and has been requested to attend educational programs by the federation.
Seto’s management company released an apology from the married swimmer last Thursday (Oct 15), a day after a weekly magazine published a story about him being at a love hotel with another woman.
On Wednesday, he visited the Japan Swimming Federation and submitted his resignation as captain for next year’s Olympics, to be held in Tokyo after a one-year postponement on account of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Seto, who will also quit his image-rights agreement with the Japanese Olympic Committee, agreed to sever his ties with corporate sponsor All Nippon Airways Co. upon the airline’s request.
“We have been supporting Seto, but this problem does not fit with the image our company hopes to project, ” the company said through a communications officer.
The star athlete was caught on camera in September by a gossip magazine, which chronicled the married 26-year-old's movements as he picked up his girlfriend, took her to a "love hotel", then went to pick up his daughter from nursery.
Seto apologised for his "irresponsible behaviour" in a statement as reported by AFP, saying he accepted the sanctions from the Japan Swimming Federation, which include events at home and abroad.
Seto said in a statement released by his management company, “My careless act hurt my precious family and caused trouble and dismay for all my supporters, sponsoring companies and many other people.”
“With deep remorse, I would like to discuss with my family what to do next, ” he added.
According to the weekly magazine, Seto and his wife have two young daughters.
It means that Seto -- the reigning world champion in the 200m and 400m individual medley -- will miss a national competition in December
But he will still be allowed to take part in the Games next summer and can also practise in private, the swimming federation said.
Seto will also have to complete the Japan Olympic Committee's "integrity education" programme among other courses, according to his management.
"I intend to sincerely give my full attention to swimming... so that I may regain the trust of my family, whom I hurt deeply with my irresponsible behaviour, and regain the acceptance of my family as well as all of you as a swimmer," Seto said in his statement.
The tabloid expose and the federation's punishment has become a subject of lively discussion on daytime TV talk shows, where Seto is not a usual subject.
Japanese swimming officials told local media that Seto's actions had violated the code of sportsmanship and harmed the honour of the federation.
The Tokyo Olympics was originally scheduled for summer 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic forced a one-year delay.
Officials are yet to announce exactly how the postponed event will be held, and at what cost. - Agencies
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