TOKYO – Mongolian sumo wrestler Harumafuji, considered one of the best fighters in the sport, has decided to retire after admitting that he attacked a lower-ranking fighter in an assault under the influence of alcohol, his teacher said on Wednesday.
The teacher submitted Harumafuji’s resignation to the Japan Sumo Association and said that the Mongolian fighter had caused trouble for the association and the public, in statements published by Japanese media.
The incident has sparked a huge scandal across Japan where the wrestlers are seen as idols from whom exemplary behavior is expected.
The 33-year-old wrestler admitted that he had attacked his compatriot Takanoiwa, 27, with his fists and then with the remote control of a karaoke machine in Tottori in east Japan at the end of October.
The assault, which left Takanoiwa with a concussion and a skull fracture forcing him to stay in hospital for four days, prevented his participation in the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament which ended Sunday.
According to witnesses at the bar, Harumafuji may have beaten Takanoiwa for not paying attention and using his mobile phone.
The police interrogated Harumafuji and other witnesses and the wrestler will meet with prosecutors at the end of the year, on charges of assault, according to sources of the investigation.
Harumafuji, 33, debuted in 2001 and has since won nine championships; in 2012, he was recognized as yokozuna, becoming the fifth non-Japanese fighter to receive the title.
The incident, which came to light in the middle of November, has become a media scandal in Japan, putting in jeopardy the reputation of this ancient sport, which has already been plagued by corruption, violence and drugs.
In sumo wrestling, competitions are interspersed with traditional and religious Shinto rituals, of which the fighters are seen as guardians, making it obligatory for them to adhere to strict discipline and exemplary code of conduct both inside and outside the “Dohyo” (ring).