Disappointment for sumo fans

The arrest of Wakakirin, a sumo wrestler in the juryo division, on suspicion of possessing cannabis and his subsequent dismissal by the Japan Sumo Association should be a great disappointment to many sumo fans.

The incident has further tarnished the image of the JSA, which is suffering from a series of scandals. The beating death in June 2007 of a teenage wrestler led to the indictment and the JSA’s dismissal of the victim’s stablemaster and three stablemates. Since then, cannabis-related incidents have led to the dismissal of three wrestlers from Russia — Wakanoho, who was arrested last August, and then Roho and Hakurozan, who tested positive in simplified urine tests that the JSA conducted in September.

Sumo fans no doubt hoped that cannabis-related scandals involving sumo wrestlers were at an end. To their disappointment, though, Wakakirin, who once fought in the makuuchi division, became the first Japanese sumo wrestler to be arrested in connection with cannabis possession.

According to investigators, Wakakirin and a musician were found in possession of 16 grams of dried cannabis when they were both arrested during a police search, conducted in connection with another drug case, of a CD shop office in Tokyo’s Roppongi district. It is alleged that Wakakirin admitted that the cannabis was for his own personal use.

The JSA appears somewhat perfunctory in its handling of the cannabis problem. One wrestler has not yet undergone the urine test that other wrestlers took in September. Test results for Wakakirin were “suspicious” twice and negative only the third time. The JSA reported his test results to the Tokyo police but did not take specific action against him.

The JSA stopped short of “expelling” Wakakirin from the organization, which would have deprived him of the right to a retirement allowance; it dismissed him instead. It also decided to raise the status of stablemaster Magaki who had resigned as director following the arrest of Wakanoho, his student. Without a drastic change in its attitude, the JSA will have a hard time salvaging its devastated reputation.