Malaysia diving coach axed over 'toxic culture that led to rape'

Malaysia diving coach axed over 'toxic culture that led to rape'

Diver file
File photo of a diver at the springboard finals of the 2017 SEA Games. (Photo: AFP) 

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's head diving coach has lost his job after allegedly allowing a "toxic" culture to develop among his team that led to rape, violence and bullying, the government said.

Yang Zhuliang, who has held the role since 2008 and is originally from China, will not have his contract renewed when it runs out at the end of December.

Yang led Malaysia to unprecedented success, with the country winning their first Olympic diving silver medal in 2016 and clinching all 13 diving golds in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.

But allegations that another national coach, who was close to Yang, raped a young diver training for the next Olympics shocked the country and prompted sports officials to examine team management.

Assistant coach Huang Qiang denied committing the rape when he was charged in court in October, and is due to stand trial.

Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that while there were no allegations directed at Yang himself, a "toxic culture" had developed among the divers under his leadership.

"The main reason why (Yang's) contract as national diving head coach was not renewed was because of a culture and environment of fear among some of our divers," Khairy said in a statement Friday (Dec 22).

"This culture and environment had caused cases of rape, sexual harassment, violence, beatings, bullying and threats."

As well as ensuring Malaysia performed well, Khairy said it was his responsibility to protect team members: "No gold medal is worth more than the safety of national athletes."

But Yang, in his 50s, described the claims as unfair.

"I seldom mix with the divers after training. And I don't pay any attention to their personal lives," he was cited as saying by The Star newspaper.

"How could I possibly be in control of everything?"

As well as the rape allegation, local media reported tensions between coaches and athletes, including a fight breaking out between one trainer and a diver during a volleyball match.

An Australian coach has been selected to take over from Yang, reports said, without identifying the person.

Source: AFP/aa