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Thursday, May 29, 2008
Sumo wrestler has to take pay cut after hitting apprentice with ladle news services

TOKYO -- A veteran sumo wrestler who attacked a junior grappler with a cooking utensil has been ordered to take a salary cut for his violent outburst.

Sumo wrestler Toyozakura, left, and his stable master, Michinoku, bow their heads to apologize after Toyozakura acknowledged whacking a junior wrestler with a cooking implement.

Toyozakura, whose ladle-wielding assault left the 18-year-old victim bleeding and needing eight stitches, will take a 30 percent pay cut for three months, Japanese sumo officials said on Thursday.

The same punishment was meted out to gym chief Magaki for beating a junior wrestler with a bamboo sword in the latest in a series of incidents that has tarnished sumo's image.

Toyozakura, 34, apologized after admitting he used a ladle to hit the apprentice on the head.

"I asked him to do something, which I don't remember exactly, but he couldn't do it," Toyozakura said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Sumo dates back some 2,000 years and retains many Shinto religious overtones, but the sport has been plagued by scandal in recent months.

Violent hazing, or beating during training, has long been seen as customary, contributing to the sport's struggle to attract new recruits. But there was a public outcry over the death last year of a teenage apprentice who was beaten with a beer bottle and a baseball bat.

Japan's government has weighed in on the issue, ordering sumo officials to clean up their act.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.