The Japan Sumo Association took the surprising measure Wednesday of suspending Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu from the next two grand sumo tournaments as punishment for playing in a soccer charity event in his home country after opting to sit out the summer regional tour citing injuries.
It is the first time in the history of the sport that a yokozuna has been suspended or received a salary cut.
Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, will be barred from the autumn meet in September and the Kyushu meet in November and has also been slapped with a 30 percent salary cut for four months. His stable elder Takasago has also been hit with a four-month, 30-percent salary cut.
“This is an appropriate punishment,” said JSA chairman Kitanoumi. “It is important that he understand that many people are always watching the behavior of a yokozuna. Asashoryu might be dejected by this, but I want him to refocus and show us his imposing figure (once again).”
The JSA decided the measure at an emergency meeting among sumo officials held at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. It came as a surprise as the JSA had hinted a day earlier at a one-tournament suspension for Asashoryu, who many believe feigned his injuries to avoid taking part in the Aug. 3-20 regional tour.
“I take this punishment very seriously. I will treat my injuries and get prepared for the winter regional tour and the New Year tournament in January,” Asashoryu said.
Asashoryu played in a charity soccer event on July 25, despite having had submitted a medical report earlier listing injuries, including a fractured lower back and nerve and ligament damage in his left elbow, requiring at least six weeks of recuperation.
The 26-year-old was shown on Japanese television gleefully running around on a soccer field along with former Japan midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata in the charity event. In one scene, Asashoryu makes a twisting maneuver with his back while shooting at the goal.
Asashoryu apparently participated in the event at the behest of the Mongolian government.