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Shohei Ohtani Denies Any Links To Gambling In 1st Comments On Interpreter Scandal

Baseball star Shohei Ohtani said Monday that he never agreed to pay Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling debt and is “beyond shocked” at how his now-fired interpreter took advantage of him.

Ohtani, who spoke through the Los Angeles Dodgers’ performance operations manager, Will Ireton, at a news conference, said, “Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

In his 10-minute prepared statement, the athlete told reporters, “I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do it on my behalf, and I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports and was never asked to assist betting payment for anyone else.”

Ohtani claimed he first learned of Mizuhara’s gambling after the Dodgers series in Seoul, South Korea, last Wednesday, when the interpreter addressed betting allegations with players and staff during a post-game team meeting.

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According to Ohtani, Mizuhara told the Dodgers clubhouse, in English, that the two-time MVP had willingly and knowingly paid off his debts.

Photographers crowd the press room of the Los Angeles Dodgers as Shohei Ohtani reads a statement Monday.
Photographers crowd the press room of the Los Angeles Dodgers as Shohei Ohtani reads a statement Monday. Michael Owens via Getty Images

While Ohtani did not have a trustworthy interpreter for the meeting, he told reporters he could “kind of” understand “what was going on” and knew “something was amiss.”

After confronting his ex-interpreter, Mizuhara came clean, prompting Ohtani to contact his lawyers.

Concerns about Ohtani’s links to sports betting first arose after reporters learned the baseball player’s name had come up in an investigation of Southern California bookie Mathew Bowyer.

Shohei Ohtani warms up after addressing allegations against his ex-interpreter during a press conference at Dodger Stadium on Mar. 25, 2024.
Shohei Ohtani warms up after addressing allegations against his ex-interpreter during a press conference at Dodger Stadium on Mar. 25, 2024. MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images via Getty Images

In his Monday statement, Ohtani said it was Mizuhara who fielded initial press inquiries about the scandal, allowing him to falsely claim Ohtani had authorized the payments.

“All of this has been a complete lie,” Ohtani said. “Ippei never revealed to me that there was this media inquiry and to the representatives in my camp.”

The athlete said he was “very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this,” later telling reporters, “It’s hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point.”

He concluded the conference without questions and said, “I’m looking forward to focusing on the season. I’m glad that we had this opportunity to talk, and I’m sure there will be continuing investigations moving forward.”

Following the news conference, Ohtani headed to the field to warm up for an evening game against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels.

On Thursday, a representative of the Internal Revenue Service confirmed that Mizuhara and Bowyer were under criminal investigation. The following day, the MLB launched its own official probe into the matter.

Any impropriety on Ohtani’s part would have come with severe consequences.

Major League Baseball players face an automatic ban if caught betting any amount of money on baseball games, but may bet on other sports.

All forms of sports betting are illegal in California, however, and MLB rules specifically forbid any involvement with “illegal book makers.”

Ohtani’s account comes after inconsistencies also emerged in Mizuhara’s public biography.

Reporting from The Athletic found no record of Mizuhara attending the University of California, Riverside, where previous reports said he graduated from in 2007.

The Boston Red Sox also denied links to Mizuhara, who was credited as pitcher Hideki Okajima’s interpreter in multiple reports.

Ohtani made baseball history last December when he agreed to a 10-season, $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers ― the largest MLB contract ever signed.

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