Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Asashoryu likely to escape punishment after latest outburst

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Sumo's enfant terrible Asashoryu looks likely to escape punishment for his latest public outburst in which he told photographers to "drop dead."

Asashoryu, who returned to the ring in January after a half-year suspension, denied media allegations that he shouted, "Drop dead, bastard!" when photographers saw him at an airport this week.

He appeared agitated when media asked him for comment on the incident.

"There's no way I would have said, `Drop dead, bastard!' You understand?" Asashoryu said.

"Are you satisfied? That's it," he said as he climbed into a car.

But a photographer, Koichi Endo from the Tokyo Sports tabloid, insisted the wrestler made the remarks on Monday as reporters waited for him to come up an escalator at Kansai airport near Osaka.

"I don't accept it," Endo said of Asashoryu's denial. "It suggests I'm a liar."

Endo said he was "trying to be considerate" to Asashoryu, who was returning to Japan from his brother's wedding in Hawaii.

"I just said to him, `You must be tired' as I pointed my camera. He turned to me and said, `Drop dead, bastard!'" Endo told the Asahi television network.

Japan Sumo Association (JSA) officials brushed off Asashoryu's remarks, saying they did not want to hear the wrestler's side of events.

"We have no plans to call him in," senior JSA official Isenoumi told Thursday's Nikkan Sports daily. "He says he didn't say it so he probably didn't. We do not want to get into an argument of `he said it ... he didn't say it.'"

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