Tokyo Olympics officials were dismayed by the news of a betting scandal involving Japan’s top baseball team.
On Wednesday, Yomiuri Giants President Hiroshi Kubo formally apologized after it was found out that two more pitchers from his team gambled on baseball games. The Giants is Japan’s New York Yankees in terms of popularity.
Early this month, Nippon Professional Baseball revealed that pitcher Satoshi Fukuda was involved in betting on the games. Two weeks later, the professional domestic league followed it up with two more players, Shoki Kasahara and Ryuya Matsumoto, just days before Japan’s version of the World Series begins.
Gambling, including most sports betting, is illegal in the country, but it remains unclear if the players will face charges.
Still, the scandal has left sports executives reeling, particularly the officials working to get baseball reinstated to the Olympics in 2020.
Hidetoshi Fujisawa, executive director of communications for the Tokyo Olympics, told Agence France Presse the incident is tarnishing the sport’s credibility in the country.
“This issue threatens the integrity of the sport and the trust of baseball fans and society in general,” Fujisawa said, according to the news outlet.
Kasahara was found to have made several bets between 2014 and 2015, while Matsumoto bet on a dozen professional baseball games in 2014. Fukuda, meanwhile, was accused of betting on about 10 NPB games.
The panel, however, said there was no evidence that the three players fix the games or play in the games they were betting on, adding that Kasahara and Matsumoto did not bet on any Giants games.
Fujisawa believes any more revelations will be a huge blow to the country’s efforts to have its baseball included at the Tokyo Games, saying: “The international sporting community has high expectations of Japan.”