A Russian sumo wrestler banned for life by the Japan Sumo Association for marijuana possession is suing for back pay and a return to the ring.
|Wakanoho, left, faces a court battle to resurrect his career [GALLO/GETTY]
The lawsuit was filed in the Tokyo District Court on behalf of the wrestler formerly known as Wakanoho.
It seeks payment of the wrestler's monthly salary of $12,000 and to have him reinstated as a sumo wrestler in the association.
The sumo association played its first-ever lifetime ban on an active wrestler last month when the Russian, whose real name is Soslan Aleksandrovich Gagloev, was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana.
"If you look at past punishments against other sumo wrestlers, the ban was too harsh,'' said his lawyer, Makoto Miyata.
Miyata said examples include three Japanese wrestlers who were arrested on suspicion of beating a junior wrestler to death last year but were only suspended, and a wrestler in the top division who hit and killed a pedestrian while driving in Osaka in 2000 but was only forced to sit out one tournament.
Gagloev said he first appealed to the sumo association to be reinstated, but was told that was impossible.
"I understand that a lawsuit is not a good thing, but I'm suing so that I can return to sumo,'' he said.
The 162-kilogram former wrestler also faces the cancellation of his work visa and expulsion from Japan.
The sumo association refused to comment because they had not examined the suit.
The world of sumo, draped in tradition in which wrestlers still fight and train in cloth belts and go through elaborate rituals before each match, had been rattled by the drug scandal over the past month.
In August, Gagloev was taken into custody by police after they found a marijuana cigarette in a wallet he had lost.
This led to its first-ever drug tests, and two more top Russian wrestlers, who are brothers, came up positive in multiple tests, triggering lifetime bans and the resignation of the association's chairman.
The lawyer for the Russian wrestler Roho, one of the two brothers who received lifetime bans after testing positive for marijuana use, said Thursday that Roho will also seek to overturn the expulsion.
The sumo scandal has been front-page news in Japan. Marijuana possession is considered a serious offense in Japan, punishable by up to five years in prison.