An advisory body to the Japan Sumo Association has agreed on the need for "extremely harsh punishment" to be meted out to grand champion Harumafuji over his assault of a lower-ranked wrestler, the head of the council said Monday.
"Tremendous damage has been caused (to sumo). It let fans down," said Masato Kitamura, chairman of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, referring to an incident where Harumafuji assaulted Takanoiwa in a drinking session at a restaurant-bar in the western Japan city of Tottori during a regional tour late last month.
Punitive actions that the JSA can take include dismissal, recommending the yokozuna retire or suspending his participation in tournaments.
The powerful yokozuna council is tasked with making recommendations to the JSA over yokozuna promotions in sumo's elite makuuchi division and other related matters concerning grand sumo champions.
In 2010, a recommendation made to the JSA led to the retirement of Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu following reports that he injured a man in a drunken rampage.
Kitamura said some council members also made an issue of the behavior of Hakuho, another grand champion, as "unfitting of a yokozuna," as the JSA says wrestlers of that stature must have good character, not just physical strength.
Hakuho, who clinched his 40th career title in the just-concluded tournament in Fukuoka, told spectators Sunday that he wants Harumafuji and Takanoiwa, who were absent from the tournament, both to return to the dohyo and urged spectators to shout banzai in unison. Hakuho, Harumafuji and Takanoiwa are all from Mongolia.
"How could he ask the spectators to say banzai at a time when the issue of Harumafuji is shaking (the sumo world)?" Kitamura said at the conclusion of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council meeting held at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The comment followed a JSA reprimand of Hakuho during the tournament. The Mongolian raised his arm in protest at the referee's decision after suffering a defeat to sekiwake Yoshikaze. For a wrestler, protesting after a bout is deemed taboo.
Police, meanwhile, plan to question Hakuho as a witness as early as Tuesday as he was present at the scene of the assault, an investigative source said Monday.
Hakuho told a press conference Monday he will just "tell them exactly what I saw."