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2011年2月 4日 (金)

八百長疑惑 徹底解明が相撲協会の責務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 4, 2011)
JSA must thoroughly probe match-fixing scandal
八百長疑惑 徹底解明が相撲協会の責務だ(2月3日付・読売社説)

Last year it was a baseball gambling scandal; now allegations of match-fixing have hit the world of professional sumo. This is a serious affair that may rock the foundations of the sport.

The Metropolitan Police Department found text messages implying that matches had been fixed on cell phones belonging to an incumbent juryo division wrestler and a sumo elder that were confiscated during investigations of the gambling scandal.

A total of 13 people, including two elders who were wrestlers at the time of the alleged match-fixing, are suspected of involvement and one has reportedly admitted engaging in match-fixing.

As there is no law against match-fixing, called "yaocho" in Japanese, the MPD reportedly plans not to pursue criminal charges.


Fans surely angry

However, match-fixing is a betrayal of sumo fans, heinous behavior that shakes their confidence in the sport to its core.

"I feel very resentful," Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hanaregoma said at a press conference. It must be sumo fans, however, who are truly angry about the scandal.

"Please begin the match with a strong initial charge and then continue on with the flow." "What should we do about the 200,000 [yen]?" These are confirmed examples of text messages that were exchanged between wrestlers, erased but recovered by the MPD.

They raise strong suspicions that the wrestlers confirmed how they would fight matches beforehand, and bought and sold victories.

If match-fixing is rampant in the world of professional sumo, which considers itself the national sport, it may threaten the very existence of the JSA.

The association has questioned 12 of the 13 wrestlers and elders, and a special committee comprising members from outside the sumo world will conduct an investigation.

We hope the committee members will question all sumo wrestlers to quickly uncover the whole truth of the situation.

Wrestlers cannot escape heavy punishments, including dismissal, if they are confirmed to have been involved in match-fixing.

As in the baseball gambling scandal, wrestlers contacted each other through cell phone e-mails. Stablemasters who cannot monitor their apprentices' activities bear a heavy responsibility as supervisors.


No end to suspicions

Suspicions have been voiced a number of times regarding match-fixing in professional sumo. A former wrestler who once held one of three highest ranks below yokozuna even testified that he rigged bouts.

Nevertheless, the JSA has consistently claimed there is no match-fixing. At his press conference, JSA Chairman Hanaregoma said: "There was no match-fixing in the past."

How can he say that so unequivocally when there has not been sufficient investigation?

It is a fact that there are spiritless or lethargic matches--wrestlers are sometimes easily pushed out of the ring by their opponents, for example--which may cause viewers to suspect match-fixing.

There must be quite a few fans who have suspected the existence of match-fixing for some time. We also would like the investigative committee to look into other grand sumo tournaments, not just the two currently under suspicion.

Now is the time for the JSA to cleanse itself, something it has failed to do in past scandals.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 3, 2011)
(2011年2月3日01時01分  読売新聞)


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