Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports as he addresses media - 4 minutes read

Shohei Ohtani, Major League Baseball's highest-paid player, broke his silence Monday afternoon about a gambling scandal that prompted his team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, to fire his interpreter last week.

In a prepared statement, through an interpreter, Ohtani said, "I am very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this."

Monday's press conference was the first time Ohtani has faced the media in person since the gambling controversy surfaced involving his friend and Japanese interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, prompting investigations by Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Internal Revenue Service.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports," Ohtani continued. "I never asked somebody to do that on my behalf and I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports."

Shohei Ohtani reacts to his strikeout in the fourth inning during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on March 24, 2024 in Los Angeles.Harry How/Getty Images

The 29-year-old pitching and home-run-hitting star, who signed a $700 million deal in the offseason to join the Dodgers, claims he did not know about Ippeiā€™s gambling until after a Dodgers game in Korea last week. "Up until a couple days ago, I didn't even know that this was happening," he said.

The news of Mizuhara's gambling came out during a team meeting following a media inquiry about sports betting, Ohtani said at the press conference.

Ohtani alleged, "Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

Following the news, Ohtani said his lawyers recommended that authorities handle that matter since allegations of theft and fraud are involved.

To conclude his statement, Ohtani said, "To summarize how I'm feeling right now, I'm just beyond shocked. It's really hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point."

Ohtani addressed the media before Monday night's spring training game against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels, at Dodger Stadium.

ABC News wasn't immediately able to reach a representative for Ippei.

MLB announced it was investigating the situation in a statement last week.

"Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media," MLB said in a statement Friday. "Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter."

Mizuhara was fired last Wednesday by the Dodgers, according to a brief statement from the team. He had worked with the Dodgers as Ohtani's interpreter after serving in the same capacity with the Angels. Ohtani and Mizuhara's relationship dates back to 2013, when Ohtani played for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League and Mizuhara was an interpreter for the team.

Mizuhara's termination came after allegations of a "massive theft" tied to gambling debts to a Southern California bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation, multiple sources told ESPN.

"The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information," the Dodgers said in Wednesday's statement. "The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time."

The statement did not provide a specific reason for Mizuhara's termination.

Berk Brettler LLP, a law firm that represents Ohtani, said in a statement Wednesday, "In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities."

The statement did not specify who allegedly stole the funds from Ohtani. However, according to ESPN, Mizuhara lost his job when reporters began asking questions surrounding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers from Ohtani's bank account to an illegal bookmaking operation.

In an ESPN interview scheduled through Ohtani's spokesperson last week, Mizuhara initially said Ohtani had agreed to pay off his gambling debts. But a day later, the spokesperson disavowed Mizuhara's claim and issued the statement claiming Ohtani had been the victim of "massive theft."

Mizuhara said Ohtani was never aware of his gambling and was not involved.

"I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting," Mizuhara told ESPN. "I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again."

ABC News' Meredith Deliso and Mark Osborne contributed to this report.

Source: ABC News

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