A controversy over gender discrimination in sumo tradition flared again this week when a referee urged two women to stay out of the ring as they tried to assist an official who was unconscious.

The sumo world has long maintained that the ring is a sacred place and that women cannot enter, in a tradition often criticized as discrimination.

Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami, 66, was delivering a speech in the ring, in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, on Wednesday when he collapsed due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He was later rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery. His condition is stable and not life-threatening, one of his secretaries told The Japan Times on Thursday morning.