[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
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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