JUSTIN PIPE has opened his heart about the ‘Coughgate’ scandal and admits he’s HEARTBROKEN.
The Taunton ace was blasted during the World Championship after being accused of deliberately coughing to put off opponent Bernie Smith in the first round last month.
Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle has called Pipe “despicable”, “desperate” and “childish” over the incident at the Alexandra Palace.
Pipe, 46, was fined £3,000 and given a “formal warning as to his future behaviour” by the Darts Regulation Authority on Tuesday for “coughing at match dart with the intention of putting off opponent – alleged gamesmanship and bringing sport into disrepute”.
In his first interview since the verdict, he exclusively told SunSport: “I’m flabbergasted and heartbroken to be totally honest. The entire episode has left me bewildered.
“The facts are simply that neither my opponent Bernie Smith nor referee Paul Hinks made a complaint or said that I coughed to put him off. Neither of them heard a noise. I have a message from Bernie saying he heard nothing. Surely that is the end of it?
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“This wasn’t even an issue. It only became an issue when it was blown out of all proportion on Sky Sports, that led to an avalanche of abuse aimed at me on social media and then when I played my next match against Phil Taylor.
“My character has been assassinated, my wife and children have suffered continual abuse and the last two month has been horrendous for us all.
“I have no idea why this witch hunt was started but it is unacceptable and irresponsible to use such strong language against me like a cheat.
“I’m not a cheat and never have been. Sadly I wasn’t even allowed to give my side of the story on TV following the so-called incident.
“I’ve had a huge amount of support from top players within the game incredibly surprised by the allegations made.
“I think it says it all when Tommy Cox, a highly-respected former tournament director and founder member of the PDC, said he found ‘the criticism of Justin Pipe for coughing reprehensible, he is as straight as they come’.
“He went on to say publicly that he would ‘bet his life that this wasn’t deliberate’. I don’t need to add to that.
“Tommy is a no-nonsense guy who basically ran the tournaments and kept the players in check, he knows my character.”
Pipe now wants to put the matter behind him as he bids to force his way back up the world rankings after being knocked out the Worlds by Taylor.
He added: “My family and I have had to accept the situation and try and move on. It’s fair to say it totally devastated our Christmas and New Year.
“It seems I’m being victimised for no apparent reason. It’s even more surprising considering the person who has created all this openly put off his opponent in a World Championship quarter-final a decade ago and won the match.
“It’s been a very said time for the family. I feel so sorry for my wife and kids who have been left in tears over the actions of one person. It’s not fair on them or I.”
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