The marijuana scandal is the latest in a string of incidents to plague the Japan Sumo Association. In the last 12 months, the association has had to contend with the death of a young wrestler at the hands of his stablemaster and co-wrestlers and Asashoryu's pretended sick leave so he could play soccer in Mongolia.
Whenever a scandal broke, outgoing sumo association chief Kitanoumi was frequently castigated by the media for his irresponsible reaction to issues.
Kitanoumi, 55, is the 55th yokozuna (grand champion) and has his own sumo stable as well as being the head of the association until he announced this week he was resigning. "After watching the news about the latest trouble, I regret donating money for his statue,” says one of his supporters in Kitanoumi's hometown of Sobetsu in Hokkaido. His support group opened a Kitanoumi museum and built a statue worth 8 million yen.
Kitanoumi was mainly criticized by the media for blaming every incident on individual stables and individuals. He would always say: "It's a matter between the stablemaster and his pupils,” or “The stablemaster is responsible for monitoring the private lives of his wrestlers.”
In the case of Wakanoho's use of marijuana, Kitanoumi tried to close the case by firing Wakanoho and kicked his stablemaster off the JSA board.
Masato Takahashi, a professor at Kokusai Budo University, who is a specialist in doping issues, says, “Normally, a positive reaction to cannabis cannot be detected 10 days after its use. The sumo association postponed random testing of other wrestlers for two weeks following the Wakanoho case, which seems to me be aimed at hiding new scandals.”
“It is actually Kitanoumi who proactively accepted Russian sumo wrestlers,” recalls one insider at his stable. “He scouted the first Russian sumo wrestler in 2000, and arranged for brothers Roho and Hakurozan to go to different stables because according to association rules, only one foreigner can be accepted by one stable. On the first day that Roho came to the stable, Kitanoumi received something like a receipt from an agent. It was almost like human trafficking.”
While Kitanoumi reportedly did not take care of Russian wrestlers because he didn't speak their language, the owner of a Russian restaurant has carefully observed them. He says, “Roho and Hakurozan frequently came to my restaurant and often said they felt lonely. Then they would often go to nightclubs and discos where undesirable foreigners gather. Their master should have more carefully taken care of them.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)© Japan Today