Sumo punishment meted out

The Japan Sumo Association in an extraordinary executive meeting on Sunday decided to punish wrestlers and stablemasters involved in illegal gambling on professional baseball games. It fired the two central figures in the gambling scandal — ozeki Kotomituski and stablemaster Otake. Kotomituski will receive a retirement allowance; Otake will not, probably because he accumulated large debts through gambling and borrowed ¥20 million to ¥30 million from Kotomitsuki.

As a result of their gambling, a large amount of money — possibly millions of yen — may have changed hands and that their acts may have provided a source of funds for gangsters.

Two stablemasters were demoted and 18 wresters, including six makuuchi wrestlers, and 10 stable masters, including JSA Chairman Musashigawa, will be banned from the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, which starts July 11. The JSA also announced the names of 46 wrestlers, stablemasters and other JSA members, including yokozuna Hakuho, who were involved in other types of gambling like gambling on hanafuda card games.

The punishment was called for by a third-party investigation panel. The JSA just accepted its decision. This shows that the JSA was unable to explain the gambling scandal and had no other way but to accept the call. It also shows that the JSA was unable to cleanse itself on its own. Criticism may arise that the JSA accepted the punishment in exchange for being allowed to hold the Nagoya event.

The JSA accepted Mr. Hiroyoshi Murayama, a former Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office chief, who was recommended by the panel, as Musashigawa’s fill-in. Mr. Murayama will serve in the position through the end of the Nagoya event. Musashigawa will come back after that.

This condition could be taken as a sign of leniency toward Musashigawa and the JSA. Reportedly there was a move to appoint stablemaster Hanaregoma as Musashigawa’s fill-in, shunning Mr. Murayama. The JSA must take drastic steps to get rid of questionable habits that have been tolerated as part of its tradition. It must especially do its utmost to sever whatever ties it may have with the underworld.