Feature

Japan’s sumo pot scandal

How athletes banned over marijuana have shaken an ancient sport

“First Michael Phelps, now this,” said Tom Mahon in the Philadelphia Daily News. Four sumo wrestlers—three of them Russian, one Japanese—in Japan have been banned from the sport recently over marijuana charges. This has devastated sports fans in Japan—where drug abuse isn’t tolerated, especially when it taints “an ancient sport with a deeply religious association.”

“Sumo is special because it codifies and prioritizes respect—respect for one's opponent, and respect for one's position within the sport's hierarchy,” said James Hardy in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri. And given the common view here that drug abuse shows a lack of self-control, it’s easy to see why many sumo lovers are worried that discipline in the sport is “going off the rails.”

Sumo officials shouldn’t waste any time stamping out this appalling behavior, said Japan’s Asahi Shimbun in an editorial—and not just for the sake of the sport. Marijuana is a harmful drug, and its use is on the rise in Japan. Surely, that’s one area where Japan doesn’t “need to catch up with the West.”

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