Sumo: Shamed ex-chairman back in post

TOKYO - The discredited ex-chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, who stepped down in 2008 amid a drug-abuse scandal, is back in his job.

Former yokozuna - grand champion - Kitanoumi was elected by the board to return as chairman, tasked with increasing transparency in the embattled martial art.

Sumo's image has been seriously tarnished in recent years due in part to the death of a teenage apprentice after a violent training session.

Its credibility took a nose-dive in 2010 and 2011 as long-simmering allegations of bout-fixing bubbled over when evidence emerged as police probed another scandal involving wrestlers placing illegal baseball bets.

A total of 22 wrestlers and one stablemaster resigned in the wake of the revelations, which led to a six-month hiatus in tournaments.

Kitanoumi, who goes by one name, stepped down as head of the sumo association in 2008 after a Russian wrestler at his stable tested positive for marijuana amid a wider drug-use scandal.

The re-election Monday of the 58-year-old, one of the modern era's greatest yokozuna, is a reflection of the sumo authority's dearth of talent to dig itself out of its current travails, local media said.

A number of very senior sumo officials have health problems while younger officials need more experience to manage the tradition-bound organisation, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said in a commentary.

"The reality is that there is no one else who can serve as the chairman," the mass-circulation daily said, urging Kitanoumi to continue efforts to reform the sport.