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Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008

Gagloev says he threw sumo bouts

Ex-wrestler claims he was coerced into taking bribes, wants to testify in defamation suit

Staff writer

Former sumo wrestler Soslan Aleksandrovich Gagloev, who was fired by the Japan Sumo Association for possessing marijuana in August, said he was forced to take bribes to throw matches during competition.

"I was forced to accept money and put in unfair matches," Gagloev said. He said he would provide more details in court.

The allegations by the ousted 20-year-old Russian wrestler threaten to inflict even more disgrace on the ailing traditional sport.

At a news conference in Tokyo, Gagloev, whose ring name was Wakanoho, said he will testify in court on behalf of Shukan Gendai, a weekly magazine that was sued for defamation by the association for publishing articles about match-fixing.

Gagloev, the first wrestler to be dismissed in sumo's storied history, also said other sumo wrestlers and coaches smoke marijuana.

"I wonder if it's appropriate not to punish them," he said.

Gagloev, who is suing the JSA for unfair dismissal, said he still hopes to restart his sumo career and wants to make the sport clean again.

Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu is to testify Oct. 3 as a plaintiff in the JSA defamation suit. The magazine said it will ask the court to let Gagloev testify the same day.

Shukan Gendai ran a series of articles in February 2007 titled "Accusing Asashoryu of rigged matches." The articles said the matches Asashoryu won when he triumphed in the Kyushu tournament in 2006 were fixed, and that other wrestlers had been bribed.

The latest claims will heap even more pressure on the sumo association, which is still trying to salvage a reputation sullied by several unsavory incidents.

Stablemaster Kitanoumi quit his post as JSA chief earlier this month after two of his wrestlers, Russian siblings Roho and Hakurozan, tested positive for marijuana and were expelled.

The two brothers deny smoking marijuana, while Gagloev claims he smoked it only once in Japan.

Kitanoumi has been under pressure since the head of another stable was arrested over the fatal assault of a trainee wrestler who was trying to quit the sport.

He has also been troubled by the disciplinary problems haunting Asashoryu, a yokozuna who was suspended for two tournaments last year when he was caught playing soccer in his native Mongolia after sitting out a regional tournament because of injury.

Information from Kyodo added

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