European Tour

Golfer Olesen cleared of sexual assault on flight

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Thorbjorn Olesen (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Thorbjorn Olesen (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Ryder Cup winner Thorbjorn Olesen has been cleared of sexually assaulting a woman on a transatlantic flight.

The 31-year-old Danish golfer said he turned into an "automaton" and was not in control of his body after taking the prescription-only tablets bought by his partner Lauren Zafer.

The five-time European Tour winner openly wept in court Wednesday after he was acquitted of sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft on July 29, 2019.

"I want to apologise wholeheartedly to everyone on board the flight from Memphis to London on July 29th 2019, who was affected by my behaviour. I do not remember anything that happened after take-off, but I am embarrassed and ashamed by the account of my actions that was outlined during the trial," Olesen said in a statement after the verdict.

"My behaviour was completely out of character and nothing like this has ever happened to me before or since.

"My actions resulted from taking powerful sleeping pills I had not taken before and my sole intent was to ensure I managed to sleep on a transatlantic flight after an exhausting playing schedule."

The court heard that, following his arrest, Olesen lost lucrative sponsorship deals with firms including Nike, BMW, Rolex and Titleist, and was suspended from the European Tour.

Olesen, ranked 62nd at the time of the incident, was temporarily reinstated to the Tour pending the outcome of the trial but has plunged to below 400th in the world rankings.

"I have paid a very heavy price for my mistake. This case has had a devastating impact on me personally, on my family, and on my career," Olesen added in his statement.

"I want to thank everyone who has supported me during the past two years and the European Tour for reinstating me in 2020. I have learned from my mistake and will make sure I never put myself in a similar position again."

Olesen was on board the eight-hour flight from Nashville to London with other professionals, including England's Ian Poulter and Justin Rose following a tournament in Memphis in 2019.

The court heard that Olesen ran around the cabin "like a little boy", was unable to operate the toilet door, and became verbally abusive to cabin crew when challenged.

He was alleged to have pushed one British Airways worker, kissed another's hand before making the sign of the cross, and touched a woman's breast.

Olesen was eventually led back to his first-class seat, where he cried before falling asleep, but later urinated on another passenger's seat, the jury was told.

The Dane said he took two melanin tablets, which he regularly used to tackle jet lag, along with two Ambien/Zolpadine pills left in his wash bag by Zafer.

The court heard the medication can cause side effects including amnesia, loss of coordination and sleepwalking.



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