An assistant coach with Shanghai's professional women's volleyball team has been suspended following claims he sexually harassed players after a training session, the city's sports authority said last night.
The male coach, who has not been named, was said to have been under the influence of alcohol and indulging in behavior judged obscene as he offered massages to players after training last Friday, the Shanghai Administration of Sports said on its official microblog.
"As a coach, such behavior to the players is absolutely impermissible," the administration said. "We will report to a higher authority once the investigation is finished. Further investigation and punishment are reserved by the administration."
The claims came to light after a game on Tuesday night, when Shanghai suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat against Tianjin.
"Butubukuai111" posted on her Weibo microblog that the team was "absent-minded and couldn't perform normally." She alleged: "The coach crew developed some new content besides the previous corporal and financial punishment. Some of them used the excuse of relaxing massage to harass players."
The claims had been reposted nearly 500 times by last night.
The administration said that, according to a preliminary investigation, the coach had dinner with friends last Friday and he had admitted to drinking too much.
Two players reported the alleged harassment after the Friday session to the team leader on Saturday, according to the administration's announcement, but the coach said to have been involved was only asked to write an explanation and remained in his post until the scandal was exposed this week.
"The coach didn't remembered his words and behavior but we won't tolerate such behavior just because it's his first time or he was drunk," the administration said.
The administration also said that such incidents "had never happened before."
In Tuesday's game, Shanghai, runner-up in the Chinese women's volleyball league last season, was swept aside by Tianjin 10-25, 15-25, 15-25. Shanghai's three national players - Ma Yunwen, Zhang Lei and Yang Jie - scored just 18 points in total compared to Chen Liyi's 19 points for Tianjin.
Many fans were concerned about the team's performance and raised questions about the players' attitude.
The night before the match, Ma had posted on her microblog: "Wherever in our environment, ecology or our behavior, mind and lifestyle, the word 'clean' is getting farther and farther from us. Sad."
The post was later deleted.