Ronnie O’Sullivan saw off Judd Trump at the Crucible to land a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship on Monday. The 46-year-old is regarded as one of the greatest ever snooker players in the history of the sport. But he has been plagued by controversy throughout his illustrious career and was even stripped of his Irish Masters title in 1998 after he tested positive for cannabis.
O’Sullivan was already a blockbuster star by the late 1990s and had produced the quickest 147 in the history of the game when he made a maximum break in the first round of the 1997 World Snooker Championship in a time of five minutes and eight seconds. And he had a handful of titles to his name.
At the Irish Masters in 1998, O’Sullivan defeated Ken Doherty 9-3 in the final as he won the tournament and received £61,000. But traces of cannabis were then found in his system after a drugs test.
And his solicitor at the time, Gerry Sinclair, revealed the ace was “deeply ashamed” of his behaviour. Mr Sinclair said O’Sullivan had “fully admitted his responsibility for what he accepts was an extremely foolish incident of cannabis. Ronnie is deeply ashamed of his involvement in this matter.
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“He is extremely conscious of his responsibility as a role model to numerous youngsters who follow the sport of snooker and he apologises to his fans, personal sponsors and colleagues within the WPBSA. Ronnie intends to attempt to make amends for his conduct by offering his time to local schools and youth groups to press home the message that youngsters should say no to drugs.”
O’Sullivan has battled with drink, drugs and depression throughout his career. And in 2013, he admitted in his autobiography that he would take drugs a lot during the early stages of his career.
“When I was having my weekly benders and my private life was in bits, I had a brilliant year professionally,” he wrote in his autobiography Running. “I remember getting to every World Championship and thinking, ‘I can’t wait till this tournament is over cos then there’s no more drug tests, I can go out and smash it.’
“I’d got caught once in my career, but that’s all. I’d get tested between events, and I was trying to judge it perfectly so there’d be no drugs left in my system, but I was pushing my luck. My mum said to me, ‘you are going to get caught soon. You can’t carry on like this.’
“I loved a joint. The only problem with a joint is that one spliff follows another, and another. [I would have] any old drink, it didn’t matter. Throw in a few spliffs. Then at 7am the sun would come up and I’d think, ‘oh, Jesus, I’ve done it again.’ The birds would be tweeting and I’d think, ‘I’m bang in trouble.’
“At my worst I had to have a joint first thing in the morning just to function. But loads of time snooker got in the way of my benders, rather than the other way round.”