Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter fired by LA Dodgers

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Shohei Ohtani answers questions and Ippei Mizuhara translates during the Los Angeles Dodgers Press Conference.Image source, Getty Images

Baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani’s long-time interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, has been fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers after allegations of theft connected to illegal gambling.

According to ESPN, at least $4.5m (£3.5m) was transferred from Mr Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaker. Mr Ohtani is not accused of wrongdoing.

Mr Mizuhara spoke to the US sport network on Tuesday.

The news comes as Mr Ohtani made his regular season debut with the Dodgers.

The team’s senior communications director has told the BBC that they are gathering information and that they “can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated”.

Sports betting is legal in 38 states in America but it remains illegal in California.

Major League Baseball has its own policy which bans “any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee” from betting on any baseball game and placing bets with illegal bookmakers.

ESPN has said it reviewed bank information showing Mr Ohtani’s name on two $500,000 payments, one sent in September and the other in October, to a bookmaking operation run by Mathew Bowyer.

According to the Los Angeles Times,Mr Bowyer was investigated by a prosecution team targeting a multimillion-dollar illegal sports betting scheme but was not charged with a crime.

During his interview, Mr Mizuhara reportedly said he had asked the baseball star for help with his gambling debts.

“Obviously, (Ohtani) wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mr Mizuhara reportedly said.

“I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. 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.”

A spokesman for Mr Ohtani initially told ESPN that the former Los Angeles Angels two-way force had transferred funds to cover his interpreter’s gambling debts but he has since debunked the account.

Mr Mizuhara himself has reportedly changed his story, now saying that Mr Ohtani did not know about the gambling debts and did not transfer money.

The LA Times has reported that Mr Ohtani’s attorneys have since accused his interpreter of “massive theft”.

“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,” a statement from West Hollywood law firm Berk Brettler reportedly read. The BBC has contacted the law firm for confirmation.

Mr Ohtani recently signed a record 10-year, $700m contract with the Dodgers, after winning his second unanimous American League MVP award.

His stint in the US started in 2018, and Mr Mizuhara has been a constant companion. He and his wife were recently seen in a picture which unveiled Mr Ohtani’s wife, Mamiko Tanaka after weeks of speculation.

Mr Mizuhara’s ability to interpret Mr Ohtani’s comments into colloquial English has been widely praised in Japan.

Additional reporting by Mattea Bubalo

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