Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?


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Hi Blog.  I have been avoiding talking about the “puff pieces” about pot smokers in Sumo (I’m sure toking helps with the munchies around chanko-nabe time; we might even get people finding other uses for the hemp-like substance surrounding much of the ceremonial decor), because there was nothing particularly noteworthy or unfair about it.  Three sumo wrestlers who just happened to be Russian got caught inhaling, and they got it in the neck.  Dumb of them to do it.

However, now a Japanese rikishi, Wakakirin, just got caught and expelled.  Funny thing is, he tested positive for the substance (twice) back in August like all the rest.  Why wasn’t the bong lowered on him then?  

More importantly, this becomes Debito.orgable because Kyodo just had to run a bit saying that he got his stash from foreigners in Roppongi.  That’s right, even when it’s a Japanese gone to pot, weasel in some blame for the NJ all over again.  Sheesh.

A couple of articles substantiating this follow, courtesy of JK and The Club.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

◆Sumo: JSA fires wrestler arrested for marijuana possession
TOKYO, Feb. 2, 2009 KYODO NEWS

The Japan Sumo Association on Monday fired second-division wrestler Wakakirin, who has been arrested for marijuana possession in the latest drug-use scandal to hit Japan’s ancient national sport.
     The JSA executive committee took swift action to impose one of its heaviest punishments on a wrestler three days after police apprehended Wakakirin, 25, whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa, in Tokyo along with 30-year-old musician Tsutomu Hirano.
     The committee, however, stopped short of expelling Wakakirin. Dismissal is the second heaviest punishment after expulsion.
     Wakakirin is the first Japanese wrestler to be arrested in a marijuana case and the latest grappler to be thrown out of the sumo world after three Russians were dismissed over drug charges during the last six months.
     Top-division Russian grappler Wakanoho was arrested on charges of marijuana possession last August, while compatriots and brothers Roho and Hakurozan both returned positive results for marijuana use in ensuing drug tests conducted by the JSA.
     The series of drug-use scandals came as the sport struggled to restore its reputation, marred also by lingering match-fixing allegations and the fatal hazing last year of a teenage wrestler by his stablemates.
     On Saturday, Wakakirin submitted a written retirement offer to the JSA through his lawyer and stablemaster Oguruma. JSA Chairman Musashigawa left his fate in the hands of the executive committee.
     Wakakirin has admitted to police that he smoked marijuana. He made his sumo debut in 1999 and wrestled in the second-tier juryo division in the last five tournaments after being demoted from the top flight, where he peaked at ninth-ranked maegashira in January 2008.

Sumo wrestler says he got marijuana from foreigner in Roppongi


A second-division Japanese sumo wrestler arrested for possessing marijuana has said he obtained the drug from a foreigner in Tokyo’s Roppongi district and that he had smoked marijuana regularly, before then retracting that claim, police said Saturday.

Wakakirin, 25, whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa, earlier told Kanagawa prefectural police that he ‘‘had been smoking for some time’’ but later changed his testimony and said, ‘‘I only smoked marijuana twice before my arrest and have not smoked it in the past.’’

Wakakirin said the only two times he had smoked were at the office of a compact disc sales shop in Roppongi where he was arrested Friday after the police found 16 grams of marijuana while investigating another drug-related case.

But because the sumo wrestler tested positive twice in three urine tests conducted by the Japan Sumo Association in September, the police said they will continue investigating where he obtained the drug and the number of times he has smoked in the past.

Police sent the wrestler to prosecutors Sunday on suspicion of violating the cannabis control law. Wakakirin was apprehended along with musician Tsutomu Hirano, 30, at the office of a CD shop in the Roppongi district, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police.

Wakakirin told investigators he hollowed out a cigar, blended the contents with marijuana and put the mixture back into the cigar and smoked it, but a senior prefectural police official queried whether it is normal to inhale cigars in the same way as in smoking marijuana.

The police also sent Hirano to prosecutors Sunday.


16 comments on “Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?

  • The last blurb from Japan Today quoting a senior prefectural police official “queried whether it is normal to inhale cigars in the same way as in smoking marijuana.” had me wondering if there was going to be a “but he didn’t inhale” defence developing.

  • what are you trying to incinuate? That somehow only the gaikokujin rikishi were left to take the heat from the media because of some sort of deep root suspicion of foreigners…? no way…

    We have a gaikokujin rikishi who is yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo yet when something happens commentators contribute it to lack of understanding of Japanese culture. (snip)

    — We have two, actually. Anyway, I guess it’s time for sumo wrestlers to turn over a new leaf. Um, er…

  • “But because the sumo wrestler tested positive twice in three urine tests conducted by the Japan Sumo Association in September”
    Really? Mainstream media report differently.

    Yomiuri Online
    “Last September, at the marihuana test at which two Russian sumo wrestlers showed positive signs, Wakakirin’s result did not show clear negative sign, so he took 2 additional tests and was found negative.”

    “Last September, Japan Sumo Association conducted urine tests but could not find the suspect definite negative, and found him negative on the third test.”

    “According to the attorney of Russian wrestlers, at the surprise test when Roho and Hakurozan were found positive, Wakakirin’s results for the first and second tests were gray, and he was found negative on the third test.”

    Debito, be careful. In this country, if you quote an article and if the article turns out to be false, you are liable for libel. If you do not like to accept that risk, put a proper disclaimer, rather than boldfacing it.

    — Thanks for the articles, HO. If I hear of any retraction from Kyodo, the original source, I will of course issue it here. How do you account for the discrepancy with Kyodo, also part of mainstream media?

    (BTW, I like how you narrowed the search terms down on your goo search with the word “陰性”. (Begin sarcasm:) That builds your case for libel when you only dig up the articles that reflect your conclusion. (/sarcasm) Not.)

    OTOH, Japan Times also says:
    Police suspect the second-division wrestler smoked pot frequently now that the Japan Sumo Association has revealed he tested positive twice in three urine tests in September. The association apparently buried the results after he passed the third test.”

    So it seems I’m in good company. Nice of some of the media to participate in what increasingly looks to be a coverup. Thanks for exposing that as well.

  • It’s certainly looks like anti-NJism when Wakakirin tested positive twice but didn’t get punished right away. Looks like they just fired the foreigner rikishi because no one cares about them and told Wakakirin to watch himself.

    Alex>>>unless you noticed, Asasyoru isn’t exactly a popular yokozuna, most people want him out of sumo forever, Hakuho is another Mongolian rikishi who has a much better standing in the sumo world

  • Noticed the NJ point instantly in the English-language media. Of course, it wouldn’t be a pot story without the “from a foreigner in Roppongi” tag. Debito, maybe you should trademark the phrase, get some money out of it, and use the funds for website expenses.

  • “Thanks for the articles, HO. If I hear of any retraction from Kyodo, the original source, I will of course issue it here. How do you account for the discrepancy with Kyodo, also part of mainstream media? ”

    Overzealous translators perhaps?

    The Japanese sources which makes accusation that Wakakirin’s first two tests were positive is linked below which was reported yesterday (2/2).

    But then again, the accusation is coming from Kitanoumi.

  • STP, thanks for the link.
    According to the article;
    Then chairman Kitanoumi says he received a report from sumo elder Isenoumi that the first 2 test results of Wakakirin were positive and the third was negative.
    Prof Onishi at Keio Univ who conducted the test says he did not report that the first 2 results were positive.
    Sumo elder Isenoumi says he did not remember well how he reported to the chairman because he was so upset by positive results of Russian wrestlers.
    On Sept 21 last year, then chairman Kitanoumi told at a press conference that all 3 test results were negative.

    If I may pick, I would rather believe the first hand account of Prof Onishi.

    — Whatever. Mainstream media Kyodo and Japan Times are sticking by their stories. Even if you’re choosing to believe information sourced through a hardly-credible (anymore) Sumo Association, the J wrestler finally got his and the media is also trying to blame NJ for it. Or is there the threat of libel for saying that too?

  • Still stinks of a double standard. Last night’s press conference had the head guy (not chiyonofuji, some other guy whose name I have forgotten) explained why they decided to sack him but give him his ‘retirement’ allowance (5 million yen?). His reason was that Wakakirin was still young so it all seems a bit KAWAIISO so we’ll give him his retirement bonus WTF??? And do we remember side-burned Toki who actually (accidently) killed someone while driving (another no-no for sumo wrestlers) and he got demoted two divisions. The sumo board are obviously taking lessons from court cases involving politicians!

  • The double standard from 2008 is becoming more clear in both languages,
    if I sum it up as:

    for gaijin
    positive = “guilty” send him back to gaikoku

    for japanese
    positive = “not negative” test again to try to get “negative”
    still not negative? Call it “inconclusive” and send him back into the dohyo
    while making sure to report that no Japanese tested “positive”

    Is that about right?
    It’s easy for the cover-uppers to claim “positive” and “not negative” are the same thing.

    The key is, do the lab techs actually have 3 results “positive”, “inconclusive”, and “negative” or just 2 results “positive” and “negative”?
    It kinda of looks like the Sumo Assoc. is trying to portray a 2-result system as a 3-result system, “postive” becomes “not negative” and therefore “inconclusive” and therefore “not guilty because nihonjin don’t do weed”

    But the scientist in me says there could just as likely be a 3-tier result, with some gray area of “inconclusive – retest”

  • level 3,

    i think your sarcastic comments about level of japanese scientist competence are unhelpful
    and do a disservice to their competence and expertise

    there are actually more levels:

    for japanese

    positive:for weed bought from foreigner

  • Well, since the Japan Times, as you yourself have pointed out, seems to allow writers to just submit anything without checking facts, perhaps we shouldn’t rely too much on an article from that source. That would leave Kyodo, but we also have:
    Mainichi Shimbun:
    “The Japan Sumo Association says 2 of the 3 tests (given Wakakirin) gave results such that it was difficult to determine if the results were negative or positive”

    Nikkei Shimbun:
    “In urine tests administered by the Japan Sumo Association in September of last year, the suspect’s (Wakakirin’s) results could not be determined to be negative, but on the third test negative results were confirmed”

    Granted this does sound kind of like “Not negative yet? Test again!” which was basically Kitanoumi’s response when the Russian brothers were caught, but there is a gray area/margin of error on any substance test which would normally require a retest or two for a certain segment of those tested to get a true result one way or the other.

    Asahi Shimbun:
    “The suspect Wakakirin had gray results on the 1st and 2nd tests, on the 3rd test negative results were finally confirmed.”

    Yomiuri Shimbun:
    “In the same urine tests last year in which two Russian wrestlers tested positive, the suspect Wakakirin’s results were not clearly negative which resulted in retests, the second of which was confirmed as a negative result”

    Basically we have several news sources saying the same thing, but with different slants; most are taking the “results from the first two tests were not conclusive (as negative)”, Kyoudou Tsuushin is pushing the “results from the first two tests gave results which could be interpreted as showing Wakakirin smoked pot” (or “大麻吸引を疑われるような反応を示したため、協会側が精密検査を実施。3度目の検査で陰性反応が出たとして、協会は警視庁に「シロだった」と報告していた。” From Kyoudou here:

    Editorial slant. Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Does “not negative” equal “positive”? Do you want to put someone’s life or livelihood on the line with “not clearly negative so we’ll assume it is positive”? I would hope the answer to the last one is “no”.

    — Points taken. Thing is, it turned out to be “yes”.

  • Wait, is Mary Jane really that hard to test for? I took a part time 6.75/hr gig at the local library last year in America and had to be tested for MJ (among other substances), no way a professional organization should have to test three times for weed.

  • Just a little tangent but…

    I can’t help comparing the way the “pot issue in sumo” is played out in the Japanese media in comparison to the “pot issue with Micheal Phelps” in the world media.

    The dimmed-down language use, sponsor support, and overall downplaying of Micheal Phelps smoking pot in comparison to severe language and punishment for the Sumo wrestlers is hilarious.

    Get a grip Japan! Nobody was murdered!

    — The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made it into an issue of, “smoking this stuff is part of how American kids these days grow up”. Imagine saying that on a comedy program here…

    Also, when hanging around the Passport office when I got my name changed a couple of years ago, I watched a Gaimushou video about how to avoid getting stung by thieves or arrested for breaking the law. The Japanese kid protagonist went to sleep and DREAMED about doing some drugs, and that’s when he got nobbled by overseas police. Then he woke up. Not much of a dream. But the point is, it’s inconceivable to the bureaucrats that a Japanese would ACTUALLY DO drugs! And I think that’s reflected in the media at large here too.


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