Rising South African star Christiaan Bezuidenhout has lifted the lid on the trauma he endured after serving a suspension for prescription drugs whilst still an amateur.
Bezuidenhout, 24, was banned for two years in 2014 after a drugs test at the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
During the test, he revealed that he was taking beta-blockers to help overcome anxiety brought on by a stutter he developed after inadvertently drinking rat poison as a young child.
However, despite making no secret of the medication he was on, Bezuidenhout received word two months later, whilst preparing to play in the Eisenhower Trophy, that he was being suspended.
“It was awful,” he revealed in a blog for the European Tour website. “I had spent my whole amateur career working to get into that Eisenhower side to represent my nation. It was a huge goal of mine to be selected in the team. To be told two days before the event that I couldn’t go because of a two year drugs ban was simply too much for me to take in. It felt like my life was over."
Bezuidenhout added that he was particularly hurt by accusations that he had used the drugs for performance enhancement.
“The worst part of it all was all the stories that came out from people in the golf industry and supposed close friends back home,” he said.
“A lot of nasty things were said and I was known as the guy banned from golf for a drug related incident. I was aware of how labels like that are hard to shake off and I reached a very low point in my life, I was banned from playing the only thing in the world I loved, the game of golf. I was inconsolable.”
A subsequent hearing determined that he had not used the drugs to improve his performance and his ban was reduced from two years to nine months – which he describes as “the longest nine months of my life”.
“The fact I was cleared of using any form of drug to better my performance was the most important thing,” added Bezuidenhout. “My father, who introduced me to the sport, brought me up to play golf like a gentleman, with honesty and integrity so to have that questioned was very hard to cope with. I felt I had let my family down which above all else was the hardest issue to cope with.”