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Snooker Trumps: How controversial is Ronnie O'Sullivan?

Bad Boys: Ronnie O'Sullivan

7 May, 2003

A father in jail, a mother who has been in jail, drug abuse, arguments, fights and bouts of depression.

No, not the background to a new character on gritty TV soap EastEnders, but snippets from the life and times of snooker superstar Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The Essex Exocet is the first player since Alex Higgins to have graced as many headlines for his off the table activities as performances on it.

However, like Higgins, his cavalier approach to the game has reaped rewards and brought him many admirers.

A few months after turning professional in 1992, he became the youngest player, at the age of 17, to win a ranking title - the UK Championship.

The feat was all the more amazing considering his father had just been handed a life sentence for murder.

And as if that was not traumatic enough, O'Sullivan then witnessed his mother sent to jail as a result of tax evasion.

Although the Chigwell star was producing the goods on the table, having both parents behind bars was affecting him emotionally.

The depression, which has blighted O'Sullivan for nearly a decade, stemmed from events in his family life and from drug abuse.

In fact, the 27-year-old's use of recreational substances landed him in trouble in 1998 when he tested positive for marijuana after winning the Irish Masters - O'Sullivan was later stripped of the title.

His emotional stability was also tested in 1996 when he was found guilty by snooker's governing body of assaulting an official at the 1996 World Championship.

He was handed a two-year suspended sentence, a £20,000 fine and advised to donate £10,000 to charity.

Fellow players have also felt the wrath of O'Sullivan's outbursts and erratic behaviour.

In 1996, the Chigwell star decided to play left-handed against opponent Alain Robidoux.

O'Sullivan eventually beat Robidoux 10-3, but there was no offer of a handshake from the Canadian after the match.

Last year O'Sullivan launched a stunning attack on Stephen Hendry prior to their Crucible semi-final.

He accused Hendry of bad sportsmanship in a previous match and then added:
"I know if I do get beat and he comes up and does a moonie in front of me and goes 'Ne ne ne', I'll just look at him and say 'well done' and say 'go back to your sad little life'.

And this year 'Rocket Ronnie' stated in his autobiography that not many players liked 2000 world champion Mark Williams.

To which Williams replied: "Stupid people say stupid things."
But despite his lapses in professional etiquette, O'Sullivan is unlikely to go down the path taken by Higgins because of snooker's evolvement from a smoky, alcohol-fuelled sport to one which has adopted a clean-cut image.

And considering what happened to the Hurricane, it is perhaps fortunate for O'Sullivan and his legion of fans that this has happened.

Bad Boy rating: 9/10

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