Los Angeles Dodgers baseball star Shohei Ohtani denies involvement in interpreter betting scandal

Los Angeles Dodgers baseball star Shohei Ohtani denies involvement in interpreter betting scandal

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani has broken his silence over a betting scandal involving his interpreter by strongly denying any involvement.

The 29-year-old baseball player, who last year signed a record-breaking $700m (£557m) deal with the team, told a press conference he was never knowingly involved in gambling.

It comes after his translator and close friend Ippei Mizuhara was sacked last week following allegations he engaged in “massive theft” to pay off betting debts.

Addressing reporters at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, the two-time MVP (Most Valuable Player) also denied ever knowingly paying off any gambling debt accumulated by his interpreter, who was reported by the Los Angeles Times and ESPN to have racked up more than $1m (£790,200) in debts.

The Japanese hitter said: “I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this.”

Ohtani, whose comments were translated at the press conference by Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performance operations, added: “Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies.

“I never bet on sports or have wilfully sent money to the bookmaker.”

The star added that “until a few days ago, I didn’t know this was happening” as he claimed he first learnt about Mr Mizuhara’s “gambling addiction” after he spoke about it during a team meeting last Wednesday.

Major League Baseball rules prohibit players and team employees from betting on baseball, while gambling on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers is also forbidden.

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Mr Mizuhara told ESPN on 19 March that Ohtani paid his gambling debts at the interpreter’s request, saying the bets were on international football matches, as well as NBA, NFL and college American football events.

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

Manager Dave Roberts said after the press conference he had received answers to “a lot of questions” and was keen to move on.

Mr Mizuhara and the alleged illegal bookmaker are both under criminal investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), officials confirmed.

“I think Shohei was very honest in his take of what happened,” Mr Roberts said. “I know that for me, the organisation, we support him.

He added: “I got a lot of questions answered as far as what he knew, what he didn’t know, and I’m looking forward to kind of just moving forward, letting the authorities take care of it, and just focus on baseball.

“I was proud of him to sit up here and give his take on things.”

Mr Mizuhara is not thought to have made any public comment on the theft allegations.