Sumo's chief referee to resign over sexual harassment of teenage official
Top-ranked sumo referee Shikimori Inosuke has been suspended by the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) and is expected to resign for sexually harassing a junior referee during a regional tour in December.
The incident occurred in Okinawa, Japan when Inosuke, who was reportedly drunk, repeatedly kissed the teenage referee and touched his chest. The victim has declined to file charges.
The JSA suspended the referee for three tournaments is expected to accept a formal resignation from him in May, after his ban has been lifted. Inosuke, who has previously been involved in drunken incidents, apologized to the association for his behavior, but insisted he couldn’t remember the harassment.
“At this time, following in succession after the assault issue, we had this incident of Inosuke’s inappropriate acts. I’m sorry for this,” JSA Chairman Hakkaku said at a news conference on Saturday, The Japan Times reported.
“My hope is that the wrestlers summon every ounce of strength they possess and put on a fine display of sumo. We need to put on a good show for the fans,” he added.
In the wake of the recent scandal, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have opted not to attend the current New Year Grand Sumo Tournament for the first time in four years.
The latest news comes just two months after the resignation of sumo grand champion Harumafuji, who brutally assaulted a younger wrestler, thereby tarnishing the highly ceremonial sport of sumo.
The 33-year-old Mongolian ‘yokozuna,’ the highest rank in sumo, hit Mongolian wrestler Takanoiwa during a drinking session at a bar in October, during a regional tour in Tottori, Japan.
Harumafuji was reportedly infuriated at Takanoiwa for fiddling with his mobile phone while senior wrestlers were talking. Harumafuji told him to pay greater respect to another yokozuna, Hakuho, who was speaking at the time, but the younger wrestler said he had received an e-mail from his girlfriend.
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A verbal altercation between the two wrestlers escalated into a physical brawl in which Takanoiwa was immediately hospitalized after suffering concussion and a fractured skull. One month after the incident, Harumafuji announced his retirement, while admitting responsibility for injuring Takanoiwa.
In December, the former grand champion faced a summary indictment over assault charges, a court procedure which seeks payment of fines rather than a trial. The prosecutors decided in favor of a softer punishment, taking into account the fact that the wrestler had stepped down over the incident.