Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Japan police find Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from Olympic camp

His conduct was 'unacceptable conduct and treachery', the Ugandan government says.

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A Ugandan weightlifter has been found four days after he disappeared from an Olympic training camp in Japan leaving a note saying he wanted to find work, police said Tuesday.

The disappearance of Julius Ssekitoleko came at a time of high public concern over coronavirus risks as thousands of foreigners arrive for the Games.

“Today, the man was found in Mie prefecture with no injuries and no involvement in any crime,” an Osaka police official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

“He carried his own ID and identified himself. It is not certain to whom we should send the man – the team or the embassy.”

The alarm was raised on Friday after Ssekitoleko failed to show up for a coronavirus test and was not in his hotel room.

The 20-year-old had recently found out he would not be able to compete at the Tokyo Games, which open on Friday, because of a quota system.

A note was found in his room requesting his belongings be sent to his family in Uganda, according to officials in Izumisano city in Osaka prefecture, where the team was training.

Police said Ssekitoleko had travelled to Nagoya in central Japan and then to nearby Gifu prefecture, before moving south to Mie.

“He was found in a house belonging to people who have a connection to the man. He did not offer resistance. He was talking frankly. We are still questioning him about his motive,” the police official said.

When Uganda’s delegation arrived in Japan last month, a coach tested positive, with another member of the delegation also testing positive later.

Uganda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem told AFP that Ugandan authorities had been informed that Ssekitoleko had been found and was being questioned.

“We are working with Japan’s government to get the facts surrounding the weightlifter’s disappearance and how he got accredited,” he said.

“As a government we have already apologised to the government of Japan on the disappearance of the weightlifter,” he added. “It was unacceptable conduct and treachery.”

Coronavirus cases are rising in Tokyo, which is under a state of emergency, and there is heavy scrutiny in Japan of infection risks linked to the Games.

Athletes and other Olympic participants are subject to strict rules including regular testing and limits on their movement.

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