Yokozuna Hakuho looks unlikely to contest the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo tournament after learning Tuesday he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament starts Sunday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.
"I don't think it (his participation) will happen," Japan Sumo Association communications director Shibatayama said by telephone.
The JSA said the Mongolian-born grand champion received the positive result from a polymerase chain reaction test taken Monday and that he has been hospitalized.
Shibatayama said all the other wrestlers from Hakuho's Miyagino stable are being tested but did not know if those producing negative tests would be cleared to compete from Sunday without first speaking to health officials.
Last Friday, a total of 12 wrestlers and staff at the Arashio stable were found to be infected, including maegashira wrestler Wakatakakage, who tested positive the day before.
Hakuho, who has won a record 44 top-division titles, has been preparing for the New Year meet starting Sunday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.
He is the first wrestler from among sumo's elite ranks atop the first-tier makuuchi division to test positive for the virus.
The 35-year-old underwent the PCR test after noticing something wrong with his sense of smell on Monday.
The New Year meet is the first competition since Hakuho received a "warning" from the JSA following his injury-related withdrawals from the previous three tournaments.
He had been participating in joint training sessions at Ryogoku Kokugikan last month to prepare for his comeback tournament.