Shohei Ohtani on gambling scandal: 'Shocked' MLB star calls out interpreter's 'lies,' denies paying bookmaker



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Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani spoke with the media on Monday for the first time since Major League Baseball opened an investigation into allegations that his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara — since fired by the Dodgers — had placed illegal bets on non-baseball sports and Ohtani’s bank account was used to pay an illegal bookmaker millions of dollars.

During his press conference Monday, Ohtani said he has never bet on baseball or any other sports, and that Mizuhara stole from his bank account. This comes after Ohtani’s lawyers last week said he was the victim of a “massive theft.”

Here is part of Ohtani’s statement, which he read in Japanese and was translated by Dodgers interpreter Will Ireton:

“I wanted to be here to be able to talk. I’m sure it was a tough week for fans and the organization. On a personal note, I’m very saddened and shocked that someone I trusted has done this. Obviously today there are things that I am limited to talk about. I do have a document in front of me that will detail what has happened.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports. I have never asked anybody to do that on my behalf. I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this was happening.

Just to go over the result, Ippei has been stealing money from my account, and has told lies. 

“… The first time I knew about this gambling — Ippei’s gambling — was after the first game (in Korea) when we had the team meeting in the clubhouse. During the team meeting Ippei was speaking English and I didn’t have a translator at my side. But even with that, I started to feel that there was something amiss.

“…Obviously I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker. And finally, when we went to the hotel and talked one to one, that was when I found out he has massive debt, and it was revealed during the meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker.

“And at that moment — obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening — I contacted my representatives at that point. When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out Ippei has been lying the whole time. And that’s when I contacted the Dodgers and my lawyers.

“In conclusion, I do want to make it clear I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker. To summarize how I’m feeling right now, I’m beyond shocked. It’s hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.”

Ohtani did not take any questions after reading his statement. 

Mizuhara originally told ESPN in an interview last week that Ohtani had paid off his gambling debt, an amount that had reached at least $4.5 million. However, his story changed a day later, and the now-fired interpreter later said Ohtani was unaware of the payments. The story broke while Ohtani, Mizuhara and the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea to open the MLB regular season against the Padres. The clubhouse meeting Ohtani referenced came after their season-opening win in Korea.

MLB’s policy allows personnel to gamble on non-diamond sports (e.g. baseball and softball) provided that such activity is legal in that jurisdiction. Sports betting remains illegal in California, however. That, in turn, explains why Mizuhara is alleged to have placed his bets with an accused bookmaker at the center of a federal investigation. 

The accused bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, has denied through his lawyer that he ever talked to or met Ohtani, but Mizuhara originally claimed that Ohtani voluntarily paid off his gambling debts. Mizuhara later changed his story, stating that Ohtani was not aware of the situation. A law firm representing Ohtani told CBS Sports that the two-way superstar “has been the victim of a massive theft.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters on Sunday, including Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times, that he thinks it’s “good” for Ohtani to speak with the media about the situation. He reiterated that he does not believe the Ohtani-Mizuhara story has been a distraction to the rest of the clubhouse.





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