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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hakuho welcomes steroid testing, laments sumo's woes


Staff writer

The most common problem in the sports world today is about to slightly alter the landscape of one of the world's oldest sports.

Sumo wrestlers will be subject to steroid testing in the near future, according to comments made by Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho on Wednesday.

"We are going to definitely start testing," Hakuho said at a media gathering at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "That has already been decided. I've heard that it would start sometime this year."

While the sumo world has been subject to a number of scandals recently, steroid use hasn't been one of them. Hakuho seemed to be of the belief that the reported move is more of a preventive measure by sumo leaders.

"In the past, I don't think there was steroid use (in sumo)," Hakuho said. "But all over the sports world, this is becoming a serious issue.

"When we consider the next generation of children, who want to become sumo wrestlers in the future, there seems to be an understanding in the sumo world that we have to make sure they understand that doing such things are bad for the body and bad for your health, and there was an idea to eventually start some kind of testing."

Hakuho also lamented the fact that the sport has been besieged by the scandals of the past year.

"It is quite unfortunate that these (things) have occurred and tarnished the image of this very traditional, wonderful sport," Hakuho said. "But I think it's only a certain part of the sumo world."

One thing the yokozuna did not seem eager to speak about was his sometimes heated rivalry with fellow yokozuna Asashoryu.

"I will continue to work very hard," a smiling Hakuko said as he danced around the subject of his Mongolian adversary. "I adore Asashoryu.

"Physically, I'm heavier and larger than Asashoryu," Hakuho said. "But on the other hand, in terms of speed I always feel less capable than Asashoryu. So whenever I get into the ring, I always focus on the fact that I can't let his speed defeat me."

Hakuho got the best of his countryman in the most recent basho, dominating Asashoryu in the final bout of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka.

"I don't think I have surpassed Asashoryu," Hakuho said. "I've heard he was suffering from some kind of injury and that might have been one of the reasons that I won.

"I would also like to point out that the spring tournament was held in Osaka, and Osaka has always been a very fortunate place for me. It was where I was eventually promoted to ozeki."

Rather than focus on defeating his rival, Hakuho said he is concerned only with reaching his own goals.

"I think fundamentally, the person that I'm fighting against the most is myself," Hakuho said. "I want to surpass myself. That's the feeling I had when I first entered the world of sumo and that's the feeling I that I still have today."



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