Japan’s sumo association decided today to expel wrestler Kotomitsuki and stablemaster Otake over their involvement in baseball gambling, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing sources with knowledge of the decision.
The decision came this afternoon at an emergency meeting of the association, the broadcaster said. Kotomitsuki holds the sport’s second-highest rank of ozeki, or champion, while Otake is a former wrestler who took over as head of his stable after retiring.
The centuries-old sport is seeking to protect its 8.5 billion yen ($97 million) in annual tournament revenue and repair a reputation already tarnished in recent years by allegations of assault, trainee abuse and drug use. Companies including Fuji Xerox Co. and Nagatanien Co. pulled their sponsorship of this month’s tournament after 65 members of the sport admitted to illegal gambling on baseball, mahjong and card games.
Tokyo-based NHK, which has broadcast the six annual sumo tournaments since 1953, has said it may cancel coverage of the 15-day competition to begin July 11 unless the association takes “sufficient” measures to address the gambling scandal.
Wrestlers, who are known by a single name, are organized in stables managed by former wrestlers.