ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Elliot Saltman became only the third player in European Tour history to be banned for cheating when he was handed a three-month ban for improperly marking his ball during a European Challenge Tour event last year.
Saltman learned of his fate when he faced the tour in a special meeting here in Abu Dhabi. The European Tour issued a statement, which read:
“At a Disciplinary Hearing of The European Tour Tournament Committee in Abu Dhabi on January 18, 2011, the Committee unanimously found that Elliot Saltman had committed a serious breach of the 2010 Challenge Tour Members Regulation F 1 (b) 6 (Rules of Golf) during the first round of the M2M Russian Challenge Cup on September 16, 2010 at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club, Moscow, Russia.
It was the finding of the Tournament Committee that Elliot Saltman, who was disqualified from the M2M Russian Challenge Cup, be suspended from participating in all European Tour and Challenge Tour sanctioned tournaments for a period of three months, beginning January 19, 2011.
Under Challenge Tour regulations, Elliot Saltman, who attended the Disciplinary Hearing in Abu Dhabi, has the right to lodge an appeal before the Board of The European Tour. This appeal must be lodged within 28 days.”
Playing companions Stuart Davis and Marcus Higley accused Saltman of improperly marking his ball. The Scot was marking his ball with a coin to the side of the ball, but then placing the ball in front of the marker, thereby placing the ball closer to the hole.
Saltman had maintained his innocence. He was supposed to have had his case heard last year, but the meeting was postponed because of the illness of a European Tour official.
Saltman, a Scotsman, earned his card at European Tour Qualifying School last year and has played three events on the 2011 schedule, making one cut.
He is not likely to play competitive golf again until April 19. He will be precluded from competing on British mini tours during his European Tour limbo.
“We have a reciprocal agreement with the European Tour,” said an official with a British mini-tour who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If a player is banned on the European Tour then he isn’t allowed to play on our tour until the ban is finished. I think it’s the same with most tours. We follow the European Tour’s lead.”
Saltman seems set to lose out on lucrative endorsement deals as a result of the ban, too. He had not signed any equipment deals, pending the hearing. However, one equipment representative in Abu Dhabi, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed it was unlikely that Saltman would be able to sign any deals.
“This is new territory for everyone because cheating is so rare in golf,” the equipment rep said. “Your reputation is everything, and once you have a reputation as a cheat, it stays with you for life. I’d be surprised if any company would want to be associated with him.”
Johan Tumba of Sweden was the last European Tour player to be banned for cheating. He was found to have doctored his scorecard during European Tour Qualifying at Quietwaters Golf Club in Essex, England, in 1992.
Tumba signed for a score of 72. England’s Ian Roper, who was marking Tumba’s card, claimed he actually had shot 74 and reported Tumba. Forensic experts were called in to inspect the scorecard, and Tumba was banned for 10 years. The ban later was reduced to three, but Tumba never played on tour again.
Scotland’s David Robertson was banned for 20 years for placing his ball closer to the green during qualifying for the 1985 Open Championship. His sentence was reduced to 10 years. He got his amateur status back and played in a few events in the Lothian region of Scotland.
Saltman will play again after the ban. What this will do to his reputation in a sport where cheating is the ultimate taboo is open to debate.