Sumo fires wrestler in pot arrest

Kyodo News

The Japan Sumo Association on Monday fired second-division wrestler Wakakirin following his arrest last week for possession of marijuana.

The JSA executive committee took swift action to impose one of its heaviest punishments on a wrestler three days after police apprehended Wakakirin, 25, whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa, in Tokyo along with 30-year-old musician Tsutomu Hirano.

The committee, however, stopped short of expelling Wakakirin.

Wakakirin is the first Japanese wrestler to be arrested in a marijuana case and the latest grappler to be thrown out of the sumo world, after three Russians were dismissed over drug charges during the last six months.

On Saturday, Wakakirin submitted a written retirement offer to the JSA through his lawyer and stablemaster Oguruma. JSA Chairman Musashigawa left his fate in the hands of the executive panel.

Wakakirin has admitted to police that he smoked marijuana. He made his sumo debut in 1999 and wrestled in the second-tier juryo division in the last five tournaments after being demoted from the top group, where he peaked at ninth-ranked maegashira in January 2008.

Top-division Russian grappler Wakanoho was arrested for marijuana possession last August, while his compatriots, brothers Roho and Hakurozan, both tested positive for cannabis use in ensuing drug tests conducted by the JSA.

The drug scandals come as the ancient sport struggled to restore its reputation, marred also by lingering match-fixing allegations and the fatal assault in 2007 on a teenage wrestler by his stablemates and stablemaster.