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Text Messages Reveal Sumo Match-Fixing Scandal in Japan

sumo wrestlers
In Japan, sumo wrestlers aren't just athletes -- they're caretakers of an ancient tradition, rooted in noble behavior and moral dignity. Now, however, that perception may be changing, thanks to widespread accusations of match-rigging, and incriminating text messages.

On May 10th, wrestler Kiyoseumi sent a text to his opponent, Kasuganishiki, asking him to "hit hard at the face-off, then go with the flow." Kasuganishiki, who was scheduled to go up against Kiyoseumi the following day, quickly confirmed that he was on board. "Understood," he wrote. "I'll go with the flow and put up at least a little resistance." The transcript of the wrestlers' SMS correspondence was eventually leaked to local news outlets, and was published last week in the daily newspaper Mainichi.

Also last week, Japan's sumo association announced that police had discovered evidence on confiscated cell phones, linking as many as 13 wrestlers to various match-fixing activities. Two wrestlers, Chiyohakuho and Enatsukasa, have already admitted to rigging their bouts, either in exchange for money or to simply balance their win-loss record.

Fans and observers have long suspected that some sumo matches may not be entirely genuine, but authorities have been hesitant to directly address the issue. Now, officials have no choice but to take action, as dismayed corporations withdraw their sponsorship money, and disappointed fans turn their attention to other sports, like baseball or soccer. The scandal has already elicited a vehement outcry from the Japanese public, who have long considered sumo to be a sport of sacred honor and tradition. "It is as if the heavens and the earth have been turned upside down," Hanaregoma, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, told the New York Times. "I am very sorry."

Tags: athletes, cellphones, controversy, fixing, Japan, match rigging, MatchRigging, police, scandal, sports, sumo wrestling, SumoWrestling, Texting, top