Sumo career goes up in smoke

It appears that the Japan Sumo Association lacks the ability and determination to rid itself of scandals. Wakanoho has become not only the first active sekitori wrestler to be arrested, but also the first active wrestler to be dismissed in sumo history. His arrest on suspicion of possession of marijuana shows that the sumo association’s ability to teach its wrestlers proper behavior has weakened.

The Russian wrestler is suspected of possessing a cigarette containing cannabis on a street near JR Kinshicho Station in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, on June 24. His alleged offense came to light after a wallet he lost was turned in to police. It contained the cigarette and his alien registration card. Police also seized a cannabis pipe from the Magaki sumo stable to which he belonged as well as from his condominium.

The circumstances show that stable master Magaki’s responsibility is heavy. He did not properly observe the behavior of Wakanoho, who was in the top position of the maegashira division and was the stable’s highest ranked wrester.

Wakanoho debuted in March 2005 and became a makuchi wrestler in November 2007. But in May 2008, he was reprimanded by the JSA for smashing a shelf in his bathroom, apparently venting his frustration over a match loss. It seems that while he climbed ranks rather rapidly, his education on proper behavior and attitude fell short.

Stable master Magaki himself was punished by the SMA in May with a three-month pay cut for beating one of his jonokuchi junior-division wrestlers with a bamboo sword, causing injuries. This event shows that he failed to learn from the fatal beating of a 17-year-old wrestler at the Tokitsukaze stable in June 2007. Stable master Tokitsukaze and three wrestlers were arrested in February 2008 over the death of the young wrestler.

The SMA needs to make strenuous efforts to educate not only wrestlers but also stable masters about their responsibility and behavior.