The Hamilton Spectator

‘I have never bet on sports’

Ohtani tells media he doesn’t gamble; that interprete­r stole money, told lies


Shohei Ohtani said Monday he never bet on sports or knowingly paid any gambling debts accumulate­d by his longtime interprete­r, Ippei Mizuhara.

Instead, the Los Angeles Dodgers star claims his close friend lied to him for years and stole millions from the two-time MVP.

Ohtani gave his version of events during a news conference at Dodger Stadium, five days after Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and debts well over $1 million (U.S.).

“I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this,” the Japanese star said while sitting next to Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performanc­e operations, who translated.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies,” Ohtani said. “I never bet on sports or have wilfully sent money to the bookmaker.”

Ohtani spoke for nearly 12 minutes in a small room packed with dozens of reporters, describing several ways in which Mizuhara deceived him. Wearing a Dodgers cap and sweatshirt, Ohtani read quickly in Japanese from a document and did not take questions.

Ohtani still attempted to answer the most important question by repeatedly emphasizin­g he was never knowingly involved in gambling. He provided no details on how Mizuhara might have been able to steal his money to pay gambling debts.

“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 said.

Ohtani left the Los Angeles Angels in December to sign a record 10year, $700 million (U.S.) contract with the Dodgers. Ohtani and Mizuhara had been daily companions since Ohtani joined the Angels in 2018 until last week, when Mizuhara’s gambling became public.

The IRS has confirmed that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker, are under criminal investigat­ion through the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Mizuhara told ESPN on March 19 that Ohtani paid his gambling debts at the interprete­r’s request, saying the bets were on internatio­nal soccer, the National Basketball Associatio­n, the National Football League and college football. Major League Baseball rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering — even legally — on baseball, and also ban betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

ESPN said Mizuhara changed his story the following day, claiming Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debts and had not transferre­d any money to bookmakers.

“All of this has been a complete lie,” Ohtani said. “Ippei obviously basically didn’t tell me about the media inquiry. So Ippei has been telling everyone around that he has been communicat­ing with me on this account to the media and my team, and that hasn’t been true.”

Ohtani said he first became aware of Mizuhara’s gambling problem during a team meeting after last Wednesday’s season-opening victory over San Diego in Seoul, South Korea.

Ohtani said the meeting was a shock — and, because Mizuhara was speaking to the team in English, Ohtani struggled to understand everything that was being said.

“Just prior to the meeting, I was told by Ippei, ‘Hey, let’s talk one to one in the hotel after the meeting,’ ” Ohtani said. “So, up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt. Obviously I never agreed to pay for the debt or make payments to the bookmaker, and finally when we went back to the hotel. That was when I found out that he had a massive debt, and it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker. At that moment, it was an absurd thing that was happening and I contacted my representa­tives at that point.”

Ohtani spoke before the Dodgers’ second exhibition game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium. Ohtani was in the lineup, batting second as the Dodgers’ designated hitter.

“To summarize how I am feeling right now, I am just beyond shocked,” Ohtani said. “It is really hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point. The season is going to start, so I am going to let my lawyers handle matters from here on out. I am completely assisting in all investigat­ions that are taking place right now.”


I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this.


 ?? JAE C. HONG THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani throws during warm-ups for the team’s game against the Angels on Monday in Los Angeles.
JAE C. HONG THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani throws during warm-ups for the team’s game against the Angels on Monday in Los Angeles.

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