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Japan sumo boss fired over death

5 October 07 10:54 GMT

The head of a Japanese sumo stable has been fired by the sport's national body over the treatment of a 17-year-old wrestler who died following practice.

Tokitsukaze, 57, had caused a public scandal and damaged the sport's reputation, the Sumo Association said.

He has admitted hitting trainee Tokitaizan with a bottle and working him hard before his death in June.

He is only the second stable master to be fired. It is the latest crisis to hit Japan's national sport.

Two months ago, grand champion Asashoryu was suspended after he was caught playing football while supposedly injured.

He has since been allowed to return to his native Mongolia for treatment for a stress disorder.

Rare move

The teenage Tokitaizan, whose real name is Takashi Saito, died in hospital after collapsing during training.

Tokitsukaze admitted to the authorities that he hit the 17-year-old with a beer bottle and trained him until he was barely able to stand on the day before his death.

He is also said to have admitted that other senior wrestlers in the stable assaulted the teenager, one of them with a baseball bat.

"We have today agreed to relieve him of his duties," Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi told a press conference.

"He has caused a public scandal and grievously damaged the honour of the Sumo Association."

Sumo has seen a decline in popularity as young Japanese turn to more modern pursuits such as football and baseball.

Young apprentices are also said to face tough treatment from senior wrestlers as part of their training.

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