Photo/Illutration Tokai University officials, including Chancellor Kiyoshi Yamada, second from left, apologize at an Oct. 17 news conference in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Shigehiro Saito)

A university baseball juggernaut has been forced to suspend its season after a caller's tip that ballplayers were using cannabis led to an investigation and admissions of drug use.

At a news conference on Oct. 17 in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokai University officials announced that the baseball team would forfeit games scheduled in the autumn season of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area University Baseball League.

Tokai has long been a league powerhouse, winning 73 season titles, the most of any university in that league, and churned out a number of professional ballplayers over the years.

University officials said that they received a phone call on Oct. 9 raising suspicions that the team's players might be using cannabis.

The university set up an investigative committee and also consulted with the Hiratsuka Police Station of the Kanagawa prefectural police.

A number of players admitted to using cannabis while being questioned by the committee. Police have also questioned a number of players and searched the team dormitory located next to the team’s training ground. Of the 128 players on the team, 110 live in the dorm.

University officials said they could not divulge the number of players who used the drug, where they obtained it and when because of the ongoing police investigation.

Kiyoshi Yamada, Tokai University chancellor, apologized at the news conference.

“We must conduct a thorough investigation because the incident occurred in a university dorm,” Yamada said.

Eiji Ito, the general manager of the baseball team, also attended the news conference and said, “We are taking this matter very seriously. I have nothing but a strong sense of regret toward not only the university and graduates but to society as a whole.”

Among the graduates from the Tokai baseball team is Tatsunori Hara, a former star player and the current manager of the professional Yomiuri Giants. He issued a statement on Oct. 17 expressing shock that such an incident had occurred at his alma mater.

Ito said there were no signs at baseball practice that the drug use had affected the players' performances. 

Nippon Professional Baseball is planning to hold a draft on Oct. 26. Three Tokai players have submitted applications indicating their availability. While not saying if any of the three were suspected of using the drug, university officials said they would hold a news conference if any of the players are actually drafted.

The scandal appears to be the latest instance of cannabis use among university athletes coming to light, which have led to arrests.

In January, a rugby player on the Nihon University team was arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis. Earlier in October, Kindai University announced that five of its soccer players were suspected of using cannabis.

(This article was compiled from reports by Nanako Matsuzawa, Shigehiro Saito and Nobuyuki Sakana.)