The ancient sport of sumo, already racked by a number of debilitating scandals, was yesterday rocked by a massive body blow as incontrovertible evidence for massive match-fixing came to light.
It has been an open secret for a long time that some level of match-fixing was occurring in sumo, even though the Japan Sumo Association consistently denied all allegations.
But this time the evidence is so strong that the sport may never recover.
Text messages clearly referring to match-fixing were found on the mobile phones of wrestlers which were confiscated in July during the police proble into the last scandal - involving wrestlers making illegal bets on baseball games with yakuza involvement.
The texts, which had been deleted but were restored by police, involve 11 wrestlers and 2 stable masters. And by the way, considering that the phones were confiscated in July last year, we can be sure of one thing- the Japanese police are either extremely incompetent, or extremely good at keeping secrets. Can there be any doubt that if it was technologically possible, deleted messages would not have been immediately restored, read and understood by the police?
I wonder what was happening between July and February in the offices of the National Police Agency.
Well, regardless of what took them so long, the end result is damning. One message reads, "Have I borrowed any wins from anyone? I have loaned wins only to grapplers Koryu and Yamamotoyama, right?"
Another says, "I will hit you straight in the initial charge today." Others quote amounts of money - 20, 30 50, 75, where 20 refers to 20 man, 200,000 yen, about 2300 dollars.
The faux shock displayed by the Japan Sumo Association is a wonder. Hanaregoma, the head of the JSA, who has certainly known about match-fixing his whole career, kept a straight face when he said that an emergency independent investigation would be launched. It is this level of hypocricy that is particularly galling- as if this is the first time the JSA has heard of match-fixing and will now unleash its full and pure attention.
The wrestler Koryu, implicated directly, said, "I know nothing. I have nothing to do with it," a lie so colossal that it may have knocked the Earth slightly out of its orbit and caused volcanos to erupt in Kagoshima.
This one is going to go on for some time.