• Kyodo

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Former komusubi Abi has handed in a letter of retirement to the Japan Sumo Association, a source at his stable said Wednesday, after violating guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus during the July Grand Sumo Tournament.

Abi started the July meet as No. 5 maegashira but was pulled out by his Shikoroyama stablemaster midway through the 15-day event in Tokyo after it was revealed he had gone out twice to hostess bars with a lower-ranked wrestler from a different stable, once before and once during the tournament.

The 26-year-old drew flak for his actions as the JSA, which had canceled May’s tournament due to the pandemic, introduced stringent infection-prevention measures in order to host the July meet in front of a limited number of fans.

In addition to moving the tournament from Nagoya to Tokyo to limit travel, the association asked wrestlers to refrain from making nonessential outings amid the pandemic and also barred them from training with wrestlers from other stables to limit the spread of the virus.

The JSA has not yet accepted Abi’s letter, however, and will discuss the incident during a board meeting on Thursday. Abi did record a fever but returned a negative result to a test for coronavirus antigens.

It was not the first time Abi had landed in hot water with the JSA. He was reprimanded for posting an indiscreet video on his Instagram account last November, and again in February when he told reporters he was “asleep” during a workshop prompted by the incident on the appropriate use of social media.

Abi, whose real name is Kosuke Horikiri, made his professional debut in May 2013 and reached sumo’s fourth-highest rank of komusubi, where he stayed for four straight tournaments from July 2019 through January.

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