News & Opinion

European Tour errs in allowing Thorbjorn Olesen to play

Thorbjorn Olesen 2018 British Open
The European Tour makes the wrong call in allowing Thorbjorn Olesen to return to competition before his criminal case is resolved, Morning Read’s Alex Miceli contends.

Nothing has changed in the legal case involving the Danish golfer, who faces 3 criminal counts stemming from an incident on a 2019 flight from Nashville to London, so why grant him a pass to return?

Thorbjorn Olesen’s suspension recently was lifted by the European Tour, but should it have been?

Let me make it abundantly clear: I don’t know whether Olesen is guilty of the criminal charges that he faces from an incident on a British Airways flight July 29, 2019, from Nashville, Tenn., to London. The charges include touching a woman without her consent and being drunk on an aircraft.

This isn’t a commentary on Olesen’s alleged behavior. I will leave that outcome to the English legal system.

This is more of a fundamental question. Why would the European Tour lift the suspension of Olesen, 30, a five-time winner and former Ryder Cup player from Denmark? Or, maybe more to the point, should it have?

On Aug. 6, 2019, the European Tour suspended Olesen for the alleged misbehavior and said that it would not let him play again until the matter had been adjudicated in the courts.

At a plea hearing in December, Olesen pleaded not guilty to sexual assault, common assault and being drunk on an aircraft and was given a May 11 trial date. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, his day in court has been postponed until Dec. 6, 2021, the European Tour said in a news release on July 2.

Though that delay is unfortunate for Olesen, the fact that the wheels of justice have turned more slowly than usual is no reason for Olesen’s suspension to be lifted.

The same facts that the European Tour used in making its decision in August apparently remain unchanged today. If those facts somehow have changed, then it’s incumbent upon the European Tour to say so.

Instead, the tour indicated that after discussions with Olesen’s legal team, the suspension has been lifted. Olesen was not listed in the field for this week’s Austrian Open, the tour’s first tournament since coronavirus suspended play in March.

When asked about the suspension being lifted, a European Tour spokesman highlighted the statement in the release: “As this is an on-going legal matter, the European Tour will be making no further comment at this time.”

The same spokesman said in an email that the English legal system does not allow the tour to discuss the matter publicly.

It’s not clear what, if anything, Olesen’s legal team produced for the European Tour about the charges that Olesen faces. It seems that the only piece of new information was the fact that the trial has been delayed from May until December.

The reasoning provided by the European Tour is unsatisfactory. No one should be shocked to find that the legal process doesn’t run smoothly.

Though it’s the European Tour’s prerogative to lift the suspension, officials need to give us more than the equivalent of, He’s suffered enough, and we think it’s only fair to give him his golfing life back.

Where’s the transparency?

Olesen got himself in this predicament, and he agreed not to compete on the European Tour during the legal proceedings.

Last I looked, the legal proceedings still are ongoing, and nothing has been made public that changes Olesen’s situation.

Is it unfortunate for Olesen that he might have gotten drunk on an airplane and created a disturbance for which he has paid thousands of dollars in legal bills already and been suspended from his livelihood?

Your response might be yes or no, but neither answer changes the fact that his suspension was the correct move in August and its lifting is the wrong move now.

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