Our sharp-eyed readers have noticed by now that the scandal meter has been reset recently, with a title “Takaganja scandal”. I did not want to let this matter overshadow Terunofuji’s promotion or the other good news coming from the banzuke committee, but here is the story.
Before I go on, a note: this story is not about sports doping. This is not a Sha’Carri Richardson kind of controversy about whether or not cannabis should be banned in sports. Cannabis is simply a banned substance according to Japanese law, so read the title as “Takagenji caught committing a criminal offense”.
Two more points to bear in mind:
- Japanese law has penalties for possession or trafficking, but not for use of cannabis.
- CBD products are sold legally, and even promoted by the former Kisenosato, Araiso oyakata (fun fact: the yokozuna’s rope is made of hemp).
So here is the story.
On Saturday, July 17, day 14 of Nagoya basho, a report came to the NSK officials, saying that “rumors among the rikishi say that Takagenji has been using cannabis, and two of the NSK employees in the heya know about it”.
At around 8pm the same day, Tokiwayama oyakata and other employees in the heya were summoned for inquiry. One of them said that he heard such a rumor once in the past, but did not hear it again.
On the 18th (senshuraku), after his bout was over, Oguruma oyakata, who is the head of the compliance department, questioned Takagenji about those rumors. Takagenji claimed that he was using CBD oil for pain relief, as well as gummy drops to prevent stage fright, which are said to contain CBD, and that this was the source of the rumor. He was asked if he would agree to be tested, and gave his consent.
On the 19th, around 3PM, under supervision from the Compliance Committee’s lawyer, a urine test was held, and Takagenji came out positive.
When questioned about this, Takagenji admitted to having smoked one joint while taking a walk on a road near the heya’s lodging during the basho.
Following its own regulations, the NSK referred the case to the police. He was questioned by the police and then released. He is now back home (in Tokyo), confined to his house under instructions from his oyakata.
Once the police completes its investigations (which it may have already done) and the compliance committee hands in its report, the board will decide on an appropriate punishment.
The prospects do not look good for Takagenji, and it appears he will be joining his older twin in the world outside sumo.
Following the cannabis scandals in the early 2000s, the NSK regulations have been revised, and although the police does not penalize people for positive THC tests or for smoking a doobie, the NSK regulations forbid drug use and the penalty is dismissal. Insiders tell the press that Takaganja is facing either a “recommendation to retire” or a straight up dismissal.
This is not the Juryo man’s first involvement in scandal. He was involved in the same scandal that saw his twin brother ousted from the sumo world, although he stopped short of using physical violence then, and was reprimanded for “power harassment” only.