National

Sumo body looks to demote stablemaster Takanohana over Harumafuji scandal

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association on Thursday recommended that sumo elder Takanohana be removed from his post as director, asking that he be demoted over his role in the assault scandal that led to the retirement of grand champion Harumafuji.

A decision on Takanohana’s punishment was postponed once again the same day, despite the JSA’s attempts to shake off the scandal that has seen the image of the ancient sport again tarnished, and is expected to be finalized after the Jan. 4 board of councilors meeting.

The JSA plans to take punitive action over Takanohana’s failure to promptly report the incident, in which Takanoiwa — a wrestler from his stable— was beaten by fellow Mongolian Harumafuji during a regional tour in late October.

Takanohana, 45, is likely to be demoted two ranks within the organization, leaving him at the board member level.

He had also been criticized within sumo circles for his refusal to cooperate with the investigation by the JSA crisis management panel until he made himself available for an interview last Monday.

The punishment also reflects his decision to not allow the association to interview Takanoiwa until Dec. 18.

Instead, he filed a report on the assault with local police in the city of Tottori days after the incident, which took place at a bar in the city on the night of Oct. 25.

Harumafuji ended his 17-year career in November after admitting to the assault. Takanoiwa, who was a rank-and-file top flight maegashira wrestler, had to sit out the entire 15-day Kyushu tournament due to his injuries and has been demoted to the second-tier division for the New Year tourney in January.

In early December Tottori police referred Harumafuji to prosecutors, recommending he be indicted for striking Takanoiwa with his bare hands and a karaoke machine remote control and inflicting a head injury that required stitches.

On Thursday, a summary indictment was filed against Harumafuji for assaulting Takanoiwa, sources close to the matter said.

Harumafuji had been referred to prosecutors on suspicion of injuring Takanoiwa.

On Nov. 29, weeks after the scandal surfaced, Harumafuji announced his retirement, bringing an end to his career.

Based on a report by its crisis management panel, the JSA penalized yokozuna Hakuho and Kakuryu, who were present at the scene of the bar fight, with pay cuts for failing to intervene and stop the altercation. Sumo elder Isegahama, stablemaster of Harumafuji, resigned from the JSA board.

Takanohana, whose real name is Koji Hanada, is known for helping sumo gain popularity during much of his active wrestling career, along with his elder brother Wakanohana, in the 1990s through the early 2000s.

Takanohana earned 22 tournament victories, sixth on the all-time list, while setting a number of records including becoming the youngest wrestler to win a top-division title at 19 years and five months. He retired in 2003.

He was elected to the JSA’s board of directors for the first time in 2010. At 38, he became the second-youngest director of the judges’ division in the history of the association.

Takanohana is considered an advocate of reform in a sport that has also been rocked by allegations of match-fixing and hazing in the past.