Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports, reveals new details of case with former interpreter

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired the superstar player's longtime interpreter.

ByBill Hutchinson and Leah Sarnoff ABCNews logo
Monday, March 25, 2024
Shohei Ohtani's statement on allegations against former interpreter
Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani spoke for the first time publicly about allegations against his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

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."

"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."

Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on March 21, 2024, in Seoul, South Korea.
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

"Up until a couple days ago, I didn't even know that this was happening," he added.

The 29-year-old pitching and home-run-hitting star, who signed a $700 million deal in the offseason to join the Dodgers, addressed the media before Monday night's spring training game against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels, at Dodger Stadium.

This 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.

"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."

Ippei Mizuhara, left, the interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani, right, was fired from the team last week.
Lee Jin-man/AP via CNN Newsource

Mizuhara was fired 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.

Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani watches from the dugout during the ninth inning of an opening day baseball game against the San Diego Padres in South Korea.
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

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.

Shohei Ohtani interpreter
Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani, right, and his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, leave after at a news conference ahead of a baseball workout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea.
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

"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."

Shifting explanations and statements

The saga began with reporters asking questions about alleged wire transfers from Ohtani's bank account. Here's how the scandal unfolded:

  • Mizuhara told ESPN in a Tuesday interview, arranged by Ohtani's representative, he asked Ohtani last year to pay off his gambling debt, ESPN reported. Ohtani had no involvement in his betting, Mizuhara said.
  • But after the interview, Ohtani's spokesperson "disavowed" Mizuhara's account, then released a statement saying Ohtani had been the victim of theft.
  • On the same day, Mizuhara was seen smiling in the LA dugout and talking to Ohtani before translating for the star in the team's 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in the MLB season-opening game in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday.
  • Later Wednesday, Mizuhara was fired as Ohtani's interpreter.
  • After learning about the allegations against Ohtani and Mizuhara, MLB on Friday announced it would be pursuing an investigation. The IRS also confirmed it was investigating the translator.

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

CNN contributed to this report.