Japan's baseball idol arrested on drugs charge

Tokyo - Former Japanese baseball star Kazuhiro Kiyohara has been arrested on suspicion of possessing stimulant drugs, Tokyo police said Wednesday, in a humiliating fall from grace for the one-time sporting idol.

The 48-year-old former Yomiuri Giants slugger, once one of the biggest names in Japanese baseball, was taken into custody and accused of possession of approximately 0.1 gram of an undisclosed substance after police raided his home in the plush Azabu district of Tokyo on Tuesday night.

Kiyohara admitted the drugs belonged to him and did not resist arrest, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department told AFP.

He is set to undergo medical examinations to determine whether he was using the stimulants himself, it added.

Japanese television on Wednesday showed Kiyohara with head bowed being taken away for questioning in the back of an unmarked police car, reporting that a pipe, syringe and four mobile phones were among items seized.

"I'm lost for words," Japan's baseball commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki told local media. "Baseball is a beacon for young children and ex-players too must continue to be role models.

"We must double our efforts to reject and stamp out this kind of harmful behaviour and (the use of) illegal substances," added the Nippon Professional Baseball boss.

A top draft pick out of high school, the Osaka-born Kiyohara smashed 31 home runs in his rookie year in Japanese baseball with the Seibu Lions in 1986 and went on to win six Japan Series titles with the team.

After joining former Major League star Hideki Matsui at the Giants in 1997, Kiyohara won two more Japan Series crowns, although he was often criticised for spending long periods on the bench with a variety of injuries throughout his 22-year career.

He retired in 2008 ranked fifth on the list of career home runs with 525.

However, Kiyohara has been no stranger to controversy and a weekly magazine reported in 2014 that the former player had been hospitalised because of a drug problem, but his management denied the rumour, insisting he had been undergoing treatment for diabetes.

Due to his power, Kiyohara was among a handful of Japanese players subjected to whispers of suspected steroid use after the Barry Bonds scandal rocked Major League Baseball in the United States, although doping is less part of Japan's sporting culture than in many other countries.

During his heyday, Kiyohara was often spotted out at Tokyo's nightspots with tabloids salaciously reporting on alleged visits to hostess clubs and even claiming he had ties with gangsters.

Celebrity drug cases in Japan are relatively few and far between and tend to be splashed front and centre across the news when they do happen.

Actress-singer Noriko Sakai received a suspended jail sentence for using illegal stimulants in 2009, while pop star Aska also escaped with a suspended term two years ago after being found guilty of using stimulants and MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

In arguably Japan's most infamous drug bust, Beatle Paul McCartney spent nine days in a Tokyo jail in 1980 after being caught at the airport with a bag of marijuana in his suitcase.