Two commentators from Italian public broadcaster Rai have been withdrawn from the World Swimming Championships in Japan after a controversial broadcast. They are accused of making sexist and racist remarks during the synchronized jumping broadcast in Fukuoka. The broadcaster initiated disciplinary proceedings against Rai sports journalist Lorenzo Leonarduzzi, who denies the allegations.

“I have instructed the responsible authorities to initiate disciplinary proceedings,” said Rai boss Roberto Sergio, according to a statement on Monday. He had arranged for Leonarduzzi and the TV expert – as well as two-time Olympic participant – Massimiliano Mazzucchi to “return immediately from Japan”.

Both are accused of making sexist remarks during the women’s competition and a racist comment during the men’s competition while the microphones appeared to be closed. After the broadcast, the channel received numerous complaints. There were also many comments about the broadcast on social media. “A public broadcaster journalist cannot justify himself by dismissing what was broadcast as a ‘pub prank’,” said Rai chief Sergio in a statement.

Leonarduzzi told the newspaper Corriere della Sera: “I distance myself from everything that was recorded by a microphone that was switched on for technical reasons and was a meter and a half away from me. I didn’t say some of these sentences that were attributed to me at all. ”The exact circumstances are now to be clarified in the internal proceedings.