Sumo Wrestling: Champion fights cheating claims

Just when the sport's biggest attraction was set to assume his place among the all-time greats, a scandal has surfaced that threatens to undermine his place in history.

The Mongolian Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, won his 20th Emperor's Cup last month, putting the 26-year-old on course to become one of the most dominant wrestlers in the history of Japan's ancient sport.

But now he has been accused of cheating, which he denies. Recent reports in the weekly magazine Shukan Gendai claim that the grand champion Asashoryu paid his opponents to let him win in last November's Kyushu tournament, where he won all 15 bouts to capture his 19th title.

After conducting its own internal investigation and finding nothing unusual, the Japan Sumo Association said yesterday that it will file a defamation lawsuit. The JSA will file a suit against Kodansha Ltd, the publisher of the Shukan Gendai, and will also demand that an apology be published for the allegations made in the report.

To some Japanese fans, Asashoryu's rise to the top of their national sport has not been easy to accept. His brash, cocky style has irked some traditionalists.

Asashoryuis defiant about the accusation. "I have never done anything like that," he said. "It's really upsetting and terribly sad that, after getting my 20th title, they write something like this. Is this how you are rewarded for getting strong?"

Shukan Gendai has stood by its story, issuing a statement saying the report was based on information provided by reliable sources.