TOKYO – Japanese police were interrogating Mongol sumo wrestler Harumafuji in Tokyo on Friday for allegedly assaulting a lower ranked wrestler with a beer bottle last month.
Harumafuji, considered one of the ancient Japanese sport’s best wrestlers, allegedly struck Takanoiwa, 27, with a beer bottle to the head on Oct. 25 at a restaurant in Tottori, in eastern Japan.
Takanoiwa reportedly suffered a concussion and a skull fracture, causing him to be hospitalized for several days. He also had to pull out of the Kyushu grand sumo tournament.
Harumafuji was cooperating with police after they called him in for questioning in response to a complaint by Takanoiwa, Kyodo news reports.
Harumafuji has denied the allegations, and fellow Mongol wrestler Hakuho, who was present during the brawl, said on Thursday that the accusation was not accurate.
The incident, which came to light earlier this week, has caused outrage in Japan, tarnishing the reputation of the sport which has already been marred by cases of corruption, violence and drugs.
On Friday, Japanese Sports Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called the incident deplorable and urged the sumo association to clarify the incidents as soon as possible.
Sumo competition is interspersed with traditional Shinto rituals, in which the wrestlers are seen as guardians. They are required to maintain strict discipline and an exemplary code of conduct both inside and outside the “dohyo” (ring).
Harumafuji, 33, debuted in 2001 and has since won nine championships; in 2012, he was recognized as a “yokozuna,” making him the fifth foreign competitor to reach the highest rank in sumo wrestling.