Diving: Manifestation of a 'toxic culture' resulting in rape and altercations costs Malaysia coach his job


KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - 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, Malaysian Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin 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.

He led Malaysia to unprecedented success, with the country winning their first Olympic diving silver medal in 2016 and clinching 12 out of the 13 diving golds in August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. 

Malaysian diver Wendy Ng was stripped of her two gold medals after her B sample tested positive for sibutramine, a stimulant commonly found in slimming products but is on the banned list of substances by the World Anti Doping Agency.

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

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

Khairy 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 on Friday (Dec 23).

"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.

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