Commentary: Wearing a scarlet letter, Saltman returns to tour

Elliot Saltman

Elliot Saltman’s return from a cheating ban this coming week highlights just why so many European Tour pros were unhappy with the punishment meted out to the Scot for cheating on last year’s European Challenge Tour.

The 29-year-old is eligible to return to action when his three-month ban expires April 19. Three months might sound like a lot, but the ban actually amounts to just one missed tournament for Saltman.

The Scot got the 28th card at last year’s European Q-School, and his status is such that he would only have played in the Sicilian Open during that three-month spell.

“That doesn't seem right to me – the punishment should fit the crime,” Ernie Els told PA Sport at The Masters when asked about the first European Tour player to be banned since Johan Tumba of Sweden was given a 10-year suspension in 1992 for changing his scorecard.

“Maybe there's been some leniency shown because it was a first offense, but if you play professional golf you should know how to mark a ball on the green.

“If he doesn't know or he doesn't understand then he needs to be taught it. I think he will be in for a hard time from other players.”

Saltman hasn’t been sitting at home in Edinburgh hanging his head. He made starts on the Alps Tour shortly after he was banned.

The European Tour’s 15-man tournament committee agreed on the ban during the Abu Dhabi Championship in January after the Scot was accused of marking his ball improperly during last year’s Russian Challenge Cup on the European Challenge Tour.

Many rank-and-file members of the European Tour were unhappy at what they deemed such a lenient sentence, although very few were prepared to express their opinions on the record.

The tournament committee is to be lauded for taking the step to ban him, but it should have gone further.

Saltman has to live with the stigma of being labeled a “cheat” for the rest of his life. However, he can consider himself a lucky man that the European Tour was not more draconian.

Golf has, arguably, the best reputation among sports for integrity and sportsmanship. It needs to maintain those high standards.

Saltman should have been banned for the entire season at least. That punishment would have fit the crime he committed in Russia.

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