Justin Pipe has been accused of ‘despicable’ gamesmanship after being embroiled in a coughing controversy during his World Championship tie against New Zealand qualifier Bernie Smith.
Pipe led 2-0 in Wednesday’s first-round clash, but had to survive two match darts to overcome the 53-year-old Kiwi. However, his victory has been overshadowed by accusations that he deliberately coughed when Smith was throwing at double for the match.
Replays appeared to show ‘The Force’ moving in to cough as Smith threw at tops and D10 for victory, and Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle gave his honest assessment on the controversy.
Mardle claimed: “It looks absolutely despicable behaviour by a professional darts player. Every time I see it, it’s a case of how desperate are you? What we saw there is Justin Pipe moves in, he moves in to get closer to Bernie Smith. The only thing Justin didn’t do there is get in even closer. Then he lets out the cough.”
“From my point of view, obviously I’ve been around darts so long, this has been going on for years, where people have tried to talk someone out of a game. I used to stand behind players up on that stage hoping the crowd could help me.
“That kind of thing has gone on but that’s come out of the game anyway. The likes of what Peter Manley used to do, that’s gone out of the game. What used to happen on a football pitch in the 1970’s is not allowed on a pitch now and it’s exactly the same up there.”
The incident caused a huge stir on social media, and Mardle believes it was a deliberate tactic, adding: “What he did not do, that any dart player would have done apart from Justin Pipe, I’ve got a cough I’ve got a cough, I turn away.
“I guarantee I turn away. He made no effort to do so. That was a tactic for advantage, it was a tactic to make Bernie Smith miss. He got his way. Whether Bernie Smith heard it or not is absolutely irrelevant.
“The intent was there. The DRA have to do something, because let me tell you, if he gets away with that and it goes on again- If that was Phil Taylor doing that, Phil Taylor would be reported on the back-page of every newspaper, the front page and in the middle spread. That was disgusting.”
Mardle’s Sky Sports colleague, three-time world champion John Part- also weighed into the debate. He claimed: “When you feel like you need to cough, what do you do? You go for the water? There was no effort to go for the water there. Bernie kind of paused, he might of (heard). He was very diplomatic.”
Pipe takes on Phil Taylor in the second-round and in his post-match interview, he claimed: “For me, the bigger picture is playing Phil, and I feel, with no disrespect at all to Bernie, I feel that’s my right to play Phil, not Bernie’s. I want to play Phil. That’s all I’ve said all along, I just want to play Phil Taylor in his last ever World Championship.”
Nevertheless, following the comments made on Sky Sports on Thursday evening, Pipe released a statement through the Professional Darts Corporation responding to the allegations, where he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Pipe said: “I’m bitterly disappointed with the comments made on Sky Sports and it’s not nice for me and my family to hear. I would never do something to put another player off and Bernie didn’t say anything to me on the night. As far as I’m aware there is no issue from his side and this has been blown out of all proportion.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC