The head of Japan's sumo association has apologised after several women attempting to perform CPR during a medical emergency Wednesday were asked to leave a sumo ring.
At least two women rushed into the ring in Maizuru, northwest of Kyoto, after a local mayor collapsed while giving a speech.
But as the women attempted to help the mayor, multiple announcements were made over loudspeakers asking them to leave the ring, city official Noriko Miwa told AFP.
The rings where sumo is practised, known as sumo dohyo, are seen as sacred places in the native Shinto faith.
Women, who are considered to be ritually unclean, are barred from stepping into them.
In a statement, the sumo association's chief, who goes by the name Hakkaku, described the announcements as "inappropriate" under the circumstances.
"The announcement was made by a referee who was upset, but it was an inappropriate act in a situation that involves one's life. We deeply apologise," the statement reported by local media said.
Sumo association officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
Miwa said the mayor had been hospitalised and was now in a stable condition.
Sumo traces its origins back 2,000 years to a time when it was an integral part of Shintoism.
Ritual is a key component of the sport, and sumo wrestlers are expected to adhere to a rigid moral code.
But the sport's stock has fallen in recent years with claims of bout-fixing, illegal betting and bullying, including the violent hazing death of a young apprentice wrestler in 2007.
Sumo is still recovering from a damaging scandal last year when former grand champion Harumafuji was charged over a brutal assault on a rival wrestler while out drinking.