Way before the establishment of the modern criminal justice system, the accused were subjected to rituals by which their guilt or innocence was determined by "divine will."

In the ancient ritual of "kukatachi," the hands of the accused were plunged into boiling water. If they suffered burns, they were deemed guilty.

In another gruesome ritual, called "tekkakisho" and practiced during the Warring States period and in the early Edo Period (1603-1867), a red-hot iron was placed on the hands of the accused.

The Japanese expression "nureginu wo kiseru" (make someone wear wet clothes) means to falsely accuse someone. According to one theory, this idiom derived from an old divine trial in which the accused donned wet clothes. They were innocent if the clothes dried quickly, but guilty if not.

I shudder to think of just how many innocent souls must have ended up as victims of this irrational system.

Kayaker Seiji Komatsu, 25, was wrongly accused of doping, which could have ruined his career.

A water bottle of his was spiked with a banned substance by 32-year-old rival Yasuhiro Suzuki at a canoeing championship.

Suzuki apparently wanted to improve his chances of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by ensuring that Komatsu was given a lengthy suspension for doping.

The malicious backstabbing stuns me. How could he have done that to a teammate? Because Komatsu competed with Suzuki, the opportunity to get hold of his water bottle must have been right there.

Suzuki is said to have blamed his "own folly and weakness" in explaining his motive. But where did his passion for the sport take this very wrong turn? Could it be that the thought of the Olympics being held in Japan overwhelmed him to the point of abandoning his human dignity?

Come to think of it, the preparations for the Tokyo Olympics have been fraught with problems.

There were suspicions of shady deals in the bidding for the 2020 Games and a plagiarism scandal over the Olympic symbol design. A construction worker was driven to "karoshi" (death from overwork) while trying to meet the completion deadline of an Olympic stadium.

Japanese people would be wiser to keep their distance from the "magic" of the Olympics being held in their nation.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 10

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.