Suspended for three months, with 28 days in which to appeal. That was the verdict handed down to European Tour professional Elliot Saltman after accusations of repeatedly mis-marking his ball during the first round of the M2M Russian Challenge Cup in Moscow last August were found to be worthy of punishment beyond his initial disqualification from the Challenge Tour event.
Following a disciplinary hearing of the European Tour Tournament Committee on Tuesday evening, at which Saltman was present alongside his accusers and playing partners in Russia, Stuart Davis and Marcus Higley, a statement was issued by the tour: "The committee unanimously found that Elliot Saltman had committed a serious breach of the 2010 Challenge Tour Members Regulation F1 (b) 6 (rules of golf) on September 16 2010.
"It was the finding of the committee that Elliot Saltman be suspended from participating in all European Tour and Challenge Tour sanctioned events for a period of three months, starting on January 19, 2011."
It is believed that Saltman, a 28-year old Scot does intend to appeal the decision, which is the first "cheating ban" meted out in European golf since 1992, when Swede Johan Tumba was expelled from tour events for a decade after he was found to have altered his scorecard during the tour's qualifying school. Perhaps more famously, Scotsman David Robertson was fined Â£20,000 and banned for 20 years after he was found to have cheated during final pre-qualifying for the 1985 Open Championship.
The verdict was greeted with general approval on the close-knit European Tour. "The ban is long enough to make the point that we can't have this sort of thing in professional golf, but short enough that Saltman's career isn't ended overnight," said one player, summing up the prevailing mood.
-- John Huggan