Quid Pro Sumo

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As if things were not bad enough in the world of sumo, news comes today that police have uncovered evidence of match fixing via pre-match calls and text messages among wrestlers.

In 2000, Steven D. Levitt and Mark Duggan published an article on corruption in professional sumo. Using data showing the outcome of every sumo match during the 1990s, Levitt and Duggan showed that wrestlers who were one win away from moving up in the rankings were more likely to win than usual. The data also showed that in eventual rematches, the loser of the first match was far more likely to win than to lose, suggesting a quid pro quo.

In 2009, three Swiss economists looked at sumo match results in the years following the publication of the Levitt/Duggan study, and found that although match results did not appear statistically suspicious in the several years following the initial study’s publication, match fixing appeared to again be prevalent from 2003-2006.

The scandal comes at a bad time for sumo, which has hit headlines in recent years over bad behavior from a yokozuna, pot smoking among younger wrestlers, gambling, and hazing that resulted in a young wrestler being beaten to death.

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