On Monday (25 March), during a press conference regarding the sports betting scandal swirling around his former interpreter, Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani vehemently denied that he ever bet on sports, sent money to an illegal bookmaker or "willfully" paid off gambling debts for anyone.

The comments were in response to the news last week that Ohtani’s interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was stealing from him to support a gambling habit.

“I have never bet on baseball or any other sports or have asked anyone to do that for me,” Ohtani said in a prepared statement. “Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this was happening. In conclusion Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies.”

Ohtani appeared with a new interpreter and did not take questions after the statement.

The man who owns baseball’s richest contract – he signed a 10-year, $700m deal with the Dodgers during the off season – was earnest, straightforward and direct in his comments. He did not mince words in calling his friend and interpreter a liar.

Secrets and lies in Ohtani sports betting scandal

Ohtani said that Mizuhara kept from him a “media inquiry” that was looking into the gambling. He said that Mizuhara told the “representatives in my camp” that the Dodgers’ pitcher had agreed to pay off his gambling debts.

“All of this has been a lie,” Ohtani said during the press conference.

Mizuhara apparently told Dodgers representatives and members of Ohtani’s legal team in English about his misadventures. Ohtani was present at that meeting and said that even though it was in English, he “understood what was going on and that something was amiss”.

After the press conference, Shohei plays catch his first arm throw rehab in public I guess…. since his elbow surgery pic.twitter.com/DEpbd8VwJC

— shobae 大谷翔平 ¹⁷ Ohtani Shohei ¹⁷ 🧘‍♀️ (@shoheisaveus) March 25, 2024

Ohtani and Mizuhara met at a hotel right after that meeting and, during the private meeting, “Ippei admitted to me that he was sending money to the bookmaker using my account and, at that moment, it was an absurd thing that was happening and I called my representatives at that point.”

As soon as Ohtani learned what was happening, he said he contacted the Dodgers and his legal team, which recommended immediately going to the authorities.

Ohtani shocked by situation

Though Ohtani showed little emotion during the press conference he said: “I am beyond shocked, it’s hard to verbalise how I am feeling at this point. And the season is going to start, so I am going to get my lawyers to handle matters from here on out and I am completely assisting in all matters taking place right now.”

On 20 March The Los Angeles Times broke the news that Mizuhara was accused of stealing from Ohtani and placing sports bets with an illegal bookie. Ohtani’s name came up during an investigation of Michael Bowyer, who is connected to a federal investigation into the illegal sports betting ring headed by former minor-league baseball player Wayne Nix.

Shohei Ohtani had this to say about the recent gambling scandal involving him and his former interpreter. 😳 pic.twitter.com/XxB2kicoA8

— theScore (@theScore) March 25, 2024

Early on in the news cycle, Ohtani’s lawyers said that the superstar had paid off Mizuhara’s gambling debts, but shifted the storyline to say that Mizuhara had stolen from Ohtani.

Major League Baseball and the Dodgers announced that they immediately fired Mizuhara, who is accused of stealing millions to support a gambling habit. ESPN has reported that a total of $4.5m in wire transfers were sent from Ohtani’s account to the illegal bookmaking account.

On 22 March, MLB announced that it is opening a formal investigation into the sports betting scandal, even though Mizuhara is no longer employed by the league or the Dodgers and Ohtani is not the target in the investigation.

In the course of the investigation into the Nix gambling ring, former Los Angeles Dodger Yasiel Puig was charged and has pleaded not guilty to illegal wagering.

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