Big, Fat Trouble Piles On Sumo Wrestling

Drugs, game rigging scandals drag down Japanese sport
By Michael Roston,  Newser User
Posted Oct 9, 2008 1:47 PM CDT
Grand sumo wrestlers line up for both the Japanese and United States national anthem at the Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday, June 7, 2008, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
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(Newser) – Japan's most beloved sport is being dragged down by unrelenting scandal, NPR reports, as sumo has this year banned three Russian wrestlers from competition for smoking pot amid match-rigging accusations elsewhere. Another wrestler died in an apparent hazing incident, while a Mongolian champion stands accused of faking injury. Many Japanese have blamed the presence of foreigners for the sport's decline.

But an American who became the first foreign-born grand champion says that the fame that comes with sumo stardom, not foreignness, causes some of the bad behavior on display.  Akebono, who himself obtained Japanese citizenship, acknowledges that many foreign sumo wrestlers simply pack up and go home at the end of their careers. "Now a lot of people are looking at sumo and they're not looking at sumo-do," Akebono says. "Do is a lifestyle, a path." (Read more sumo stories.)