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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Asashoryu heading home for treatment

Kyodo News

Mongolian-born yokozuna Asashoryu will return to his homeland as early as Wednesday for treatment of a mental disorder after the Japan Sumo Association approved his departure on Tuesday.

News photo
Takasago, stable master of Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu, speaks to reporters after the Japan Sumo Association's executive committee meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

The JSA executive committee members gave the green light to Asashoryu's return to Mongolia in an hourlong emergency meeting nearly a month after they suspended the grand champion from the next two tournaments and his illness subsequently surfaced.

The JSA said the decision was made "unanimously" despite earlier press reports that some senior officials were adamant that Asashoryu should receive treatment in Japan.

JSA Chairman Kitanoumi said the latest action by sumo's governing body was taken out of respect for the doctor's opinion.

"We placed a great deal of importance on the diagnosis and unanimously made this decision," Kitanoumi said. "The stable master will accompany him (Asashoryu) on his way to and from Mongolia and is responsible for everything involved.

"It is hard for him (Asashoryu) to regain the strength and competitiveness required to wrestle again and a tough test will await him before his return for the tournament in January," Kitanoumi added.

Kitanoumi had hinted last week that he would like to permit Asashoryu to return to Mongolia based on advice from chief JSA doctor Hiroyuki Yoshida, who attended Tuesday's meeting along with the yokozuna's personal doctor, Shuichiro Takagi.

On Monday, the JSA announced a decision to call up the JSA executives to complete the procedural red tape.

Asashoryu's stable master Takasago apologized for his failure to properly handle the matter, which has not only rocked sumo circles over the past month but has begun to take on the nature of a social problem surrounding Japan's ancient national sport.

"I apologize for making such a stir," Takasago said as he bowed deeply in front of reporters.

"I will assume all the responsibility for whatever happens from now on," Takasago said as he suggested that he would check up on the environment in Mongolia where Asashoryu is to receive treatment.

At an Aug. 1 executive meeting, the JSA barred Asashoryu from tournaments in September and November after it was discovered that he had played in a charity soccer match in Mongolia despite having been permitted to skip a regional training tour due to injuries.

Asashoryu was diagnosed with a mental disorder shortly after he was handed the unprecedented, severe punishment for a yokozuna.



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