TOKYO (AFP) — A magazine on Monday accused rising Bulgarian sumo star Kotooshu of fixing bouts as a scandal tainting the image of Japan's ancient sport intensified.
Kotooshu, who in May became the first European to win a tournament but has since lost steam, flatly denied the allegations.
The Shukan Gendai weekly magazine published the new accusations just days after it was hauled to court in a libel case filed by the sumo establishment enraged by an earlier article on bout-fixing.
The magazine said the latest revelations came from Russian Soslan Gagloev, 20, who was expelled from the sumo world in August for marijuana possession and has since threatened to tell all about "evil" in the 2,000-year-old sport.
"The current sumo world isn't a professional sport. It is a show, a circus. Some mafia-like wrestlers control winners and losers by fixing bouts," Gagloev said in the article.
Kotooshu, real name Kaloyan Mahlyanov, approached Gagloev three times this year offering to pay money to win fights and threatening the Russian with a dangerous form of training if he refused, the story said.
Kotooshu, 25, had been struggling with injuries and a sluggish showing during the March tournament this year.
"We are both Europeans. If you do this for me, I will never forget it. I will give you one million yen (9,700 dollars). I am okay with even 1.5 million. Please help," Kotooshu told Gagloev, according to the magazine.
"Everyone is doing it, so don't worry," the Bulgarian told the Russian, the magazine said.
"You have scruples, but you will get used to this. The sumo world may look good from the outside, but inside it's different. So don't worry."
Gagloev said he threw victories to Kotooshu in tournaments in May -- when the Bulgarian won his historic trophy -- and in July.
The magazine said Gagloev received a box after the May victory containing one million yen in cash and that Kotooshu gave the Russian another one million yen on a street before the July tournament.
Kotooshu has been a popular figure in Japan, with some calling him sumo's David Beckham for his looks.
He rejected the story. "We are all training so hard. I am saddened by this. It is all lies," Kotooshu told reporters.
Sumo has been rocked by scandals in recent years including the death of a young trainee who was beaten by his master and the expulsion of three Russian wrestlers, including Gagloev, for smoking marijuana.
The Shukan Gendai earlier accused top-ranked wrestler Asashoryu of fixing bouts, leading the Mongolian, 31 other wrestlers and the Japan Sumo Association to file a libel suit against the magazine's publisher, Kodansha Ltd.
Gagloev has outraged the sumo establishment by filing an unprecedented lawsuit for reinstatement after he was expelled.
Gagloev said his first experience with bout-fixing was last autumn with veteran wrestler Kasuganishiki, who was on a losing streak.
"I wanted to talk about this with someone to seek advice, but I was so afraid that I couldn't tell anyone," Gagloev said in the magazine.
"People at the sumo association know of many wrongdoings, but they remain silent and try to keep it secret. It should not be like that," he was quoted as saying.
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