Home Sports Shohei Ohtani denies betting on baseball, ‘saddened, shocked’ by scandal

Shohei Ohtani denies betting on baseball, ‘saddened, shocked’ by scandal


Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani MLB

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, center, walks across the dugout during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani said Monday he had never bet on baseball or other sports, declaring himself “saddened and shocked” after accusing his interpreter of stealing from his bank account to pay off millions of dollars in gambling debts.

In his first public comments on the scandal which erupted last week and led to the firing of his long-time friend and translator Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani emphasized he had been the victim of a theft and that he had no knowledge of Mizuhara’s gambling problems before last week.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports and I never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf and I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports,” Japanese ace Ohtani said through a translator.

READ: Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter fired after allegations of ‘massive theft’

Ohtani, the biggest star in baseball, joined the Dodgers last December in a record-breaking $700 million deal.

He said an interview Mizuhara gave to ESPN last Tuesday before the scandal broke, in which his translator said the star had knowingly wired money to a California bookmaker to pay off the interpreter’s gambling debts, was “a complete lie.”

“Obviously I never agreed to pay off this debt or make payments to the bookmakers,” the 29-year-old told reporters at Dodger Stadium.

“All of this has been a complete lie… Until a couple of days ago I didn’t know this was happening… Ippei has stolen money from my account and told lies.

READ: MLB investigates Shohei Ohtani and ex-interpreter scandal

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said of the allegations.

Ohtani, who appeared calm and composed throughout his remarks, did not take questions from reporters and did not immediately explain how Mizuhara had been able to access his bank account to steal the reported $4.5 million.

With Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and team president Andrew Friedman looking on, Ohtani said the first time he became aware of Mizuhara’s gambling problem was when the interpreter addressed the Dodgers locker room after their win over the Padres in South Korea last Wednesday.

“During the team meeting, Ippei was speaking English but I didn’t have a translator by my side,” Ohtani said. “But I kind of understood what was going on and started to feel there was something amiss.”

 ‘Beyond shocked’

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara arrive to a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The two men had a one-to-one meeting at the team hotel after addressing the locker room, in which Mizuhara allegedly admitted he had been raiding Ohtani’s bank account without his knowledge to settle gambling debts.

“It was revealed to me during that meeting, Ippei admitted he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker,” Ohtani said.

“To summarise how I’m feeling right now: I’m just beyond shocked. It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.”

READ: Who is Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter?

Major League Baseball on Friday announced it had launched a formal investigation into the allegations which have rocked the sport as it gears up for the new season.

MLB is expected to request interviews with all parties, including Ohtani and Mizuhara, although officials cannot compel Mizuhara’s cooperation because he no longer works in the major leagues.

“I’m going to let my lawyers handle this from here on out and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now,” Ohtani said on Monday.

The scandal exploded into public view last week when Ohtani’s lawyers issued a statement after receiving media inquiries about a federal investigation into an alleged illegal bookmaker in which Ohtani’s name surfaced.

Ohtani’s lawyers said the player had been the victim of a “massive theft” while ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million from Ohtani’s bank account had been wired to the California bookmaker at the center of the allegations.

Major League Baseball’s gambling policy bars “any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee” from betting on baseball or making illegal bets on any other sport.

Players found guilty of betting on a game they were involved in are subject to life bans, with one-year suspensions if they are found to have gambled on games they are not directly involved in.

Ohtani is a rarity in baseball in that he combines elite level pitching and hitting ability, making him a generational talent who has been portrayed as a modern-day version of Babe Ruth.

Those skills and his clean-cut image have made him the global face of baseball.

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He joined the Dodgers in December on a 10-year deal worth $700 million — the richest contract in the history of North American sport.

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