At the beginning of February 2018, two-time former World Champion Adrian Lewis hit the headlines for a bizarre on-stage altercation with Jose Justicia during the pair's UK Open Qualifier match. Security had to intervene as a war of words broke out between the pair and tempers flared. The cause of the skirmish still remains largely unclear but following a thorough investigation by the PDC, Lewis was suspended with immediate effect.
Lewis has since been cleared to compete on the circuit once again but it's been a poor year for the 33-year-old who has slipped down the rankings, failed to be selected for the Premier League and was disappointingly knocked out in the first round of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace. Incidents like this are few and far between in the sport but there have been a number of controversial moments down the years which have threatened to spill over. We take a look at some of the more memorable and confrontational incidents at the Oche.
It will come as little surprise that it isn't the first time that the fiery Adrian Lewis has courted controversy on the circuit. His well-documented rivalry with James Wade was taken to a new level in Nottingham back in 2012 when the pair clashed over the sound of a creaky floorboard. Wade complained to the referee that he believed Lewis was deliberately bouncing it in order to put his opponent off which prompted an amusing demonstration of the offending item, much to the bemusement of TV viewers. Wade was adamant that Lewis - who went on to win the game 8-5 - was bouncing far too vigorously and although tempers largely remained intact, there was a heated atmosphere between the pair yet again. Neither competitor has enjoyed a fruitful last 12 months with James Wade also missing out on selection for the PDC Premier League of Darts although he displayed significant improvement during the 2018 Masters.
There has always been a little bit of needle in matches involving Scottish extrovert Peter Wright and the all-conquering Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen. A war of words broke out during a closely fought 6-6 draw back in 2014. Wright threw his first dart crouching down as he aimed to whip up an already-enthusiastic crowd much the chagrin of MVG. They crossed swords yet again in Exeter with Wright once again stepping back from the Oche in an effort to gee up the audience. His showmanship clearly riled Van Gerwen who later branded his opponent "unprofessional", prompting a repost of "Grow up, you big baby" from Wright. The pair have met on many occasions since including during the final of the 2017 Premier League where controversy was in short supply although this match will be remembered fondly for the stunning comeback which sealed the title for Van Gerwen. He is hoping to defend his crown once again in 2018 and got off to the best possible start by sweeping aside World Champion Rob Cross during his opening fixture. The Dutchman is the 4/6 favourite with Betway to finish top of the table yet again, and currently offer a £30 free bet available for use on one of the many different darts betting markets such as predicting the number of sets or legs for each fixture. The Premier League of Darts takes place at various locations each Thursday evening between February and May and the two are set to clash once again in Cardiff.
It's fair to say that Phil Taylor has never been the popular player on the PDC circuit and he rarely chose to shy away from controversy. He branded his opponent Daryl Gurney "a little shit" for not pouring him a glass of water ahead of their match-up at the Grand Slam of Darts. The Power didn't hold back with his criticism as he told reporters that Gurney "lacked respect" before promising to give the youngster "a taste of his own medicine". Taylor later stormed off when questioned further on the incident. The iconic World Champion won the match 16-4 but his outburst prompted division amongst players and pundits, many of whom suggested Taylor was out of order and needlessly grumpy.
Justin Pipe found himself embroiled at the centre of a controversial row during the 2017/2018 World Darts Championship. The 46-year-old was accused of putting off his opponent Bernie Smith during their first-round meeting by deliberately coughing when his opponent stepped up to the Oche. Pundit Wayne Mardle didn't hold back as he branded the Taunton-based player a "disgrace" and "childish" following the conclusion of the game. Pipe was given a formal warning and fined for the controversy and told a newspaper he was "heartbroken" over the incident. The referee didn't notice or acknowledge the noise during the game and his opponent is not believed to have registered a complaint, but it was the TV cameras and pundits who picked it up and brought it to the attention of the public. Pipe has remained largely controversy-free during his career although his languid style regularly frustrates his fellow professionals on the circuit.
Adrian Lewis was left extremely unhappy following the leak of a social media post from Peter Wright's wife, Jo. She appeared to question the desire of Wright's playing partner, Gary Anderson, ahead of two crucial match-ups which would help determine the quarter-final line-up at the World Cup of Darts. She is alleged to have sent a private message to a fan suggesting that Anderson was set to go easy on his opponent, who needed just a point to progress to the next round. She later apologised suggesting it was "taken out of context" but a furious Lewis didn't hold back when quizzed on the subject. He branded her "an absolute disgrace" before adding "...you are one horrible woman" and confirming that "Neither myself or Gary (Anderson) are cheats". The incident wasn't investigated by the Darts Regulation Authority, although the pair lost out in the final to the English duo in this competition just 12 months earlier.
Darts players are a hugely competitive species and it comes as very little surprise that there have been a number of bust-ups and controversial moments over the years. Phil Taylor has since retired from the sport and although the divisive 57-year-old has taken a step back, that is unlikely to reduce the number of heated exchanges and incidents at the top level, which are always a terrific source of entertainment for darts fans.