Stable search nets pot pipe in sumo bust

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

Police have seized a cannabis pipe from the Magaki sumo stable in Tokyo, investigative sources said Tuesday, a day after Russian wrestler Wakanoho was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana.

The police are planning to question people linked to the stable, suspecting Wakanoho, 20, may have smoked marijuana on the premises, according to the sources.

Wakanoho is alleged to have possessed in his wallet a Russian-made cigarette containing 0.368 gram of dried plant matter including cannabis on a street in Sumida Ward on June 24. He was 19, and therefore a minor, at the time.

Wakanoho, whose real name is Gagloev Soslan Aleksandrovich, admitted to the allegations and a cannabis pipe was found in his Sumida Ward condominium as well.

The case came to light when the wrestler’s wallet, containing the cigarette and his alien registration card, was handed in to police after he lost it on a street. The police said the cigarette smelled distinctly of cannabis, prompting them to examine it.

Wakanoho told police he had got the marijuana from a foreigner in the Roppongi district.

Toshimitsu Kitanoumi, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, expressed his disappointment following the arrest, pledging to investigate the situation and “consider serious measures.”

Doreen Simmons, a longtime sumo commentator and columnist in Tokyo, said Wakanoho’s days as a professional athlete in Japan could be numbered, adding, “If the charge sticks, then he will be thrown out of the sumo association.”

Under the Cannabis Control Law, possession of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in prison with forced labor. Foreigners convicted of drug crimes can also be deported and slapped with a lifetime re-entry ban.

It was unclear how prosecutors plan to proceed. Wakanoho turned 20 on July 8 and was legally a minor at the time of the alleged violation.

After his professional debut in March 2005, Wakanoho powered his way up the ranks, reaching the top sumo division in a little more than 2 1/2 years. He is now one of 15 foreign wrestlers in the highest makuuchi level, along with Mongolian grand champions Asashoryu and Hakuho.

But his fiery temper has often overshadowed his talent. In May, the Japan Sumo Association reprimanded him for smashing a shelf in the wrestlers’ bathroom after a loss.

Simmons suggested Wakanoho’s youth and the limited time he had to adjust to the expectations of Japan’s traditional sumo world may have contributed to his recent woes.

“One of the problems as I see it is that he went up too quickly,” she said. “Others came up more slowly.”

Fans have made it clear they have little patience with bad-boy wrestlers.

Traditionalists were appalled last year by the antics of Asashoryu, who was suspended after claiming an injury and skipping out on summer tour events, only to be shown later on television playing soccer in his native Mongolia. The stress of the resulting firestorm proved too much for him and he left Japan for three months to recuperate at home.