An announcement was made over the PA system urging several women to step down from the dohyo ring during a Grand Sumo spring regional tour in Maizuru, Kyoto, on Wednesday after the women climbed up onto the dohyo to provide first aid to the city mayor, who had collapsed in the ring.
The medics were among a number of people tending to Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of the Kyoto Prefecture city, who collapsed while making a speech Wednesday afternoon.
Apparently, the Japanese tradition forbids women from entering the ring on the grounds that is sacred and their presence is considered "unclean".
Tatami had a brain hemorrhage and was subsequently hospitalized.
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Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku issued an apology later in the day, calling the referee's response inappropriate. "We deeply apologise", the statement reported by local media said.
The sumo organization has been heavily criticized, and accused of choosing ritual over life by preventing the women from performing life-saving CPR.
"How rude is it that they threw salt to cleanse the ring after the women went in?" one Japanese Twitter user said. "There is no historical ground or reason at all why they can not".
Despite the serious circumstances, a referee called several times for the female medics to leave the ring.
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He also said the association "deeply thanks the women for giving first-aid treatment".
Ota argued that the tradition should be changed if the sumo association wants to win more fans, including women. The ancient sport has been plagued by a series of scandals in recent months.
Former yokozuna - the highest rank in the sport - Harumafuji, 33, retired in December after being accused of beating junior wrestler Takanoiwa with his bare hands and a karaoke machine remote control.
In February, Japanese police said they had referred a sumo wrestler to prosecutors on suspicion of indecent assault and last month Egyptian wrestler Osunaarashi was asked to retire after being involved in a vehicle accident while driving without a license.
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