Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Sumo wrestling in betting scandal

Japan's venerable sport of sumo wrestling is facing its worst betting scandal
Japan's venerable sport of sumo wrestling is facing its worst betting scandal

The venerable sport of sumo wrestling - facing its worst scandal in decades - may make the unprecedented move of cancelling its next tournament because of humiliating allegations that dozens of wrestlers and coaches bet on baseball games.

With police investigating the accusations that first appeared in the weekly press, Japan's Sumo Association is considering suspending more than a dozen wrestlers and their coaches for the baseball gambling ring, which allegedly involved gangster middlemen.

Police are considering criminal action pending the outcome of the investigation. Even without charges, gambling is seen as a breach of discipline and not in keeping with stringent ethical standards sumo wrestlers are expected to observe.

The association's chairman, former wrestler Musashigawa, is expected to announce on Monday whether he would step down and suspend or fire the implicated wrestlers and coaches. A special panel convoked by the association also recommended the next tournament - one of six held each year - be cancelled if action was not taken.

That would be unprecedented and costly.

"There will be no tomorrow for sumo unless they take these kind of measures," said Shigeru Ito, the head of the panel.

Its top wrestler, Mongolia's Asashoryu, recently quit in disgrace after media reports that he got in a drunken altercation. The sport has also been involved in criminal investigations into the death of a wrestler who was brutally hazed and into the use of marijuana by wrestlers in its prestigious top division.

"Unless they take action like the ones we have recommended they won't be able to win back the public's trust," panel member Takayasu Okushima said. "This is the result of all the scandals they haven't dealt with in the past."

The oversight panel was to formally submit its recommendations to the Sumo Association's executive board on Monday.

According to Japan's Kyodo news agency, it was to suggest 15 wrestlers be suspended, along with 12 coaches. It was also to recommend that one coach be expelled permanently.

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