[sumo] Current state of sumo

Sumocypher at aol.com Sumocypher at aol.com
Thu Oct 9 13:00:34 EDT 2008

Even the Economist is out with an article about the recent scandals, not  
just online, but in print, too.  I found the very last paragraph, and last  
sentence, very interesting......... Looks like even the stuffy old Economist  knows 
the real story.
Nobody puts Asashoryu in the corner
Weighty  matters 
Oct  9th 2008 | TOKYO 
>From The Economist print edition 

The  national sport engulfed by all manner of scandal       
Sumo  gets dumped on 
UPON  entering the ring, sumo wrestlers clap, stomp their feet, toss salt on 
the  ground and rinse their mouths—purification rituals tied to Shintoism, 
from which  the sport derives. To judge from a recent spate of scandals involving 
bullying,  drug use and alleged match-fixing, they are not working. 
On  October 7th three young wrestlers admitted to a court in Nagoya that last 
year  they beat a 17-year-old trainee, leading to his death, when he tried to 
leave  their “stable”. They did so under orders of the stable-master, who 
faces a  separate trial. Initially the sport’s secretive governing body, the 
Japan Sumo  Association (JSA), looked the other way. 
Pressure  to reform the JSA and sumo has never been greater. Kitanoumi, the 
JSA’s powerful  chairman, was forced to step down last month—a first for the 
sport. The  proximate cause was a drugs scandal involving a wrestler he trains. 
But calls  for reform have been building for years, as Kitanoumi did nothing 
to tackle the  sport’s troubles.  
In  August Wakanoho (a Russian, born Soslan Aleksandrovich Gagloev) was 
expelled  from sumo for marijuana use—the first time a wrestler, who is expected to 
adhere  to high moral standards, has been banned. Also without precedent, 
Wakanoho sued  the JSA to reinstate him. He also alleged match-fixing, widespread 
pot-smoking,  and said he is ready testify about other “evil things” in 
order to clean up the  sport.  
Meanwhile,  the JSA held unannounced drug tests last month of 69 sekitori, 
the  wrestlers in the top divisions. It snared two other Russians, the brothers 
Roho  and Hakurozan. Also expelled, they pleaded innocence and hired a lawyer. 
The  drug tests themselves are under scrutiny. One Japanese wrestler is said 
to have  twice tested positive but to have eventually been cleared. To many, 
the process  smacks of making scapegoats of foreign wrestlers, blamed by sumo 
purists for  corrupting the soul of the sport. Nearly 30% of sekitori are 
foreign,  more than half from Mongolia alone.  
Even  more troubling, Shukan Gendai, a muckraking weekly magazine, last year  
claimed wrestlers regularly throw bouts. A former wrestler testified that as  
many as 80% of matches are bought. The JSA and some 30 wrestlers are suing 
for  libel. On October 3rd, Asashoryu, a famous Mongolian wrestler, testified 
that no  match-fixing happens. Still, fans seem to believe some corruption 
The  controversies divert attention from sumo’s long-term problems: most fans 
are  elderly, attendance is declining and it is tougher to attract recruits. 
The new  JSA chairman, Musashigawa, has made but one reform, allowing three 
outside  directors to serve on the JSA’s 12-person board. The first group was 
recently  appointed—septuagenarians all. 
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