Reports: Police probe sumo wrestlers

BY foxsports • February 1, 2011

Japanese police have uncovered text messages from the cell phones of sumo wrestlers which implied they were fixing bouts, in a fresh blow to the ancient, scandal-plagued sport, according to reports Wednesday.

Police found messages indicating wrestlers were trading wins or fixing fights during an investigation into gang-linked gambling among sumo heavyweights.

The messages were discovered in cell phones confiscated from several wrestlers amid last year's probe, which focused on betting on baseball, Jiji Press said, citing anonymous sources.

Previously deleted messages had been restored by police, Jiji said.

Several junior-grade wrestlers are suspected of involvement in the match-fixing, which saw wins traded for thousands of dollars, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said without specifying the amount.

It is unlikely that the police will pursue criminal charges as match-fixing in itself is not illegal in Japan, but Tokyo police plan to refer the case to the education and sport ministry, Jiji and Mainichi said.

The ministry supervises the sumo association, which has denied any match-fixing.

"It is inevitable that the sumo world will be dealt another serious blow after the baseball gambling scandal," the Mainichi daily said.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment on the reports.

The ritualistic male-only event where contestants toss salt to purify the ring before fights has seen its cloistered world unraveled by recent controversy.

Last year, scores of sumo wrestlers, who are expected to act as role models in Japan, admitted to betting illegally on baseball games in gambling arranged by bookmakers linked to organized crime.

The revelations plunged sumo into deep crisis, leading big-name sponsors to withdraw and the broadcaster NHK to boycott a national tournament in July.

Tokyo police last week arrested three former sumo wrestlers and the mother of one of them on suspicion of illegally organizing baseball gambling and collecting money in bets from sumo wrestlers in 2009 and 2010.

It has also emerged that top members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's biggest crime syndicate, were given ringside seats at sumo tournaments, allowing them to send messages to jailed gangsters via NHK broadcasts seen in prisons.