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With his sport battling to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, a Japan Sumo Association official said Wednesday that sumo elder Tokitsukaze may have violated coronavirus safety protocols, including mahjong parlor visits, during the recently completed New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

The 47-year-old stablemaster, whose charges include ozeki Shodai and makuuchi-division rank-and-file wrestler Yutakayama, was demoted in October for violating the JSA’s protocols, including taking a golf outing when the association had prohibited unnecessary travel.

Tokitsukaze | KYODO
Tokitsukaze | KYODO

If he is found to have violated the rules again, it could mean being dismissed from the association.

The JSA will now ascertain the facts, its compliance committee will investigate and the board of directors will decide what steps to take at its next meeting.

“I don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or not,” said Shibatayama, the JSA’s director of communications. “I will hear what others around him have to say.”

The board can recommend seven degrees of discipline, ranging in severity from expulsion to a reprimand.

“If this is true, it will be hard to avoid severe punishment,” a source within the stable said.

The New Year tourney, the first to be held during a state of emergency, ran the full 15 days after 900 association members underwent polymerase chain reaction tests. A total of 65 wrestlers were sidelined due to the virus.

In response to the threat, last March’s Osaka grand tournament was the first in history to be held behind closed doors, while May’s summer tournament was canceled. Since then, July’s Nagoya tournament and November’s Kyushu tourney were both held in Tokyo to avoid travel.

A source within the association said there is a strong possibility that the upcoming Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, scheduled to start on March 14, will also be held in Tokyo.

Preparations to hold it at Edion Arena Osaka had been progressing, but it is not known whether the state of emergency in the Kansai region will be lifted on Feb. 7 and whether the necessary medical facilities can be secured.

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