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Sumo Association
considering drug tests

Associated Press

TOKYO >> Japan's sumo governing body may begin testing wrestlers for drugs next month to quiet concerns about doping-related injuries in the ancient sport, a major Japanese newspaper reported yesterday.

The Sumo Association could conduct urine tests during the twice-a-year medical checkups for all wrestlers, the Yomiuri, the nation's largest daily, said, citing unidentified sources.

Although no cases of doping have been proved, rumors about drug use -- and its ties to wrestlers' expanding girth and frequent injuries -- abound.

With the goal to push an opponent out of the ring or throw him down, many top-ranked wrestlers have beefed up to get an edge.

Over the past decade, the average weight of wrestlers in the top division -- the best 40 of the roughly 700 professionals in the sport -- has increased 22 pounds to 345 pounds. The average Japanese man weighs less than 155 pounds.

But the greater emphasis on size has taken its toll. Increasing heft has meant diminishing speed and technical prowess, and more injuries.

With so many of the top wrestlers sidelined by pain, the sport has lost fans. Both yokozuna grand champions, the Hawaii-born Musashimaru and Takanohana, bowed out of last competition in November, and in July, 16 wrestlers were absent -- the most since World War II.

Last year, Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi, a former yokozuna, speculated that performance-enhancing drugs used to get bigger may be to blame, and vowed to investigate.

Critics say doping tests could expose offenders and further undermine support for the sport.

For more sumo information online, try:
Sumo Web
Da Kine Sumo E-zine
Grand Sumo Home Page
Kyodo News Service


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