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Matchfixing Claims Lead to Sumo Tournament Cancellation

The unthinkable has happened in the time-honored sport of Sumo wrestling. For the first time in over 60 years, a grand tournament of the Japan Sumo Association has been cancelled due to claims of match fixing among some of its senior wrestlers. The last time one of the six annual events was cancelled was in 1946 after the  Tokyo stadium underwent renovations from World War II bombings. But this latest scandal may have caused more damage than those bombs that fell so many years ago. 

In a stunning news conference this weekend, the chairman of the JSA said that the schedule spring tournament would be cancelled under investigations against 13 senior Sumo come to an end. “Until we resolve the issue completely, we cannot carry out the tournament,” said Haneregoma.

The match fixing scandal was discovered quite accidentally, after police were investigating a related claim that Sumo wrestlers were involved in online gambling. The police seized their mobile phones to check for proof of these claims and were shocked to find numerous messages between Sumos, spelling out how they would fix wrestling matches at upcoming tournaments.

It is claimed that wins may  have been bought or sold to the value of a few thousand dollars per bout. At least three of the accused Sumo wrestlers have admitted to match fixing, and the police believe that as more evidence is investigated, more Sumos will follow suit. 

As an aside, I can’t help wondering why these guys would risk the integrity of a centuries-old sport, as well as their national  and personal pride and the adoration of their fans, for a couple of thousand dollars – and if they were already going to go through with the whole thing, why did they literally spell it out in clear daylight through text messages on their mobile phones.

Sumo wrestling has been struggling to clean up its reputation, following rumor of illegal betting among its fighters, and following  the attack by top ranking wrestler, Asashoryu, on another man last year,  forcing him to retire disgracefully from the sport. This latest cheating scandal is just another nail in the sport’s coffin.

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