A scandal-stained Russian sumo wrestler has threatened to blow open a catalogue of “evils” surrounding Japan's most traditional of sports in a move that could destroy the reputation of many of its biggest stars.
In an incendiary public statement, which his lawyer is understood to have strongly advised against, the former high flier lashed out at the entire structure of the sport, alleging that it was riddled with match-fixing and other problems.
The extraordinary outburst comes as sumo is fighting a last-ditch battle to save its name with the Japanese public, and to win back audiences turned off by a seemingly endless run of scandals and debacles. The public airing of grievances also shatters the long-cherished tradition that sumo wrestlers should be models of laconic silence and forbearance.
The disgraced Soslan Gagloev, who fought under the name of Wakanoho until his lifetime ban last month for marijuana possession, said that he stood ready to lift the lid on a “dirty world” of rigged bouts and drug abuse within the sumo elite.
“I was forced to accept money and made to fight in unfair matches from the very moment I entered the makuuchi [the top rank of sumo wresting]," he said.
Warning that he would reveal “other evil things that I know” later in court, the 20-year-old Russian had one last swipe at the sport from which he was so abruptly disbarred.
“My stable master and others knew about the match-fixing but nobody stepped in because they had also been fighting in rigged matches themselves,” he said.
When he does have his moment in court, Gagloev is expected to repeat the allegations made today and expose many of his stable-mates as habitual users of marijuana. He did not identify people by name, but indicated that he was prepared to do so in a more formal legal setting.